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THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO 
AN EXPERIMENT IN LITERARY 
INVESTIGATION 
SOLZHENITSYN 

(BOOK 1 OF 3) 

I dedicate this 
to all those who did not live 

to tell it. 
And may they please forgive me 

for not having seen it all 

nor remembered it all, 

for not having divined all of it. 

Author's Note 

For years I have with reluctant heart withheld from publication this already completed book: my 
obligation to those still living outweighed my obligation to the dead. But now that State Security has 
seized the book anyway, I have no alternative but to publish it immediately. 

In this book there are no fictitious persons, nor fictitious events. People and places are named with 
their own names. If they are identified by initials instead of names, it is for personal considerations. 
If they are not named at all, it is only because human memory has failed to preserve their names. But 
it all took place just as it is here described. 

Contents 

Preface 

PARTI 

The Prison Industry 

"In the period of dictatorship, surrounded on all sides by enemies, we sometimes manifested 
unnecessary leniency and unnecessary softheartedness." 

KRYLENKO, 

speech at the Promparty trial 

1. Arrest 

2. The History of Our Sewage Disposal System 

3. The Interrogation 

4. The Bluecaps 

5. First Cell, First Love 

6. That Spring 

7. In the Engine Room 

8. The Law as a Child 

9. The Law Becomes a Man 



10. The Law Matures 

11. The Supreme Measure 

12. Tyurzak 



PART II 

Perpetual Motion 

And then we see it in the wheels, 

the wheels! 
Which never like to rest, 

the wheels! . . . 
How heavy are the stones themselves, 

the millstones! 
They dance in merry ranks . . . 

the millstones! 
W. MliLLER 

1. The Ships of the Archipelago 

2. The Ports of the Archipelago 

3. The Slave Caravans 

4. From Island to Island 

Translator's Notes 

Glossary: 
Names 

Institutions and Terms 
ILLUSTRATIONS 

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn In the army 
In detention After his release from camp 

Viktor Petrovich Pokrovsky 
Aleksandr Shtrobinder 
Vasily Ivanovich Anichkov 
Aleksandr Andreyevich Svechin 
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Reformatsky 
Yelizaveta Yevgenyevna Anichkova 

Preface 

In 1949 some friends and I came upon a noteworthy news item in Nature, a magazine of the 
Academy of Sciences. It reported in tiny type that in the course of excavations on the Kolyma River 
a subterranean ice lens had been discovered which was actually a frozen stream — and in it were 
found frozen specimens of prehistoric fauna some tens of thousands of years old. Whether fish or 
salamander, these were preserved in so fresh a state, the scientific correspondent reported, that those 
present immediately broke open the ice encasing the specimens and devoured them with relish on the 
spot. 

The magazine no doubt astonished its small audience with the news of how successfully the flesh of 
fish could be kept fresh in a frozen state. But few, indeed, among its readers were able to decipher 
the genuine and heroic meaning of this incautious report. 



As for us, however — we understood instantly. We could picture the entire scene right down to the 
smallest details: how those present broke up the ice in frenzied haste; how, flouting the higher claims 
of ichthyology and elbowing each other to be first, they tore off chunks of the prehistoric flesh and 
hauled them over to the bonfire to thaw them out and bolt them down. 

We understood because we ourselves were the same kind of people as those present at that event. 
We, too, were from that powerful tribe of zeks, unique on the face of the earth, the only people who 
could devour prehistoric salamander with relish. 

And the Kolyma was the greatest and most famous island, the pole of ferocity of that amazing 
country of Gulag which, though scattered in an Archipelago geographically, was, in the 
psychological sense, fused into a continent — an almost invisible, almost imperceptible country 
inhabited by the zek people. 

And this Archipelago crisscrossed and patterned that other country within which it was located, like 
a gigantic patchwork, cutting into its cities, hovering over its streets. Yet there were many who did 
not even guess at its presence and many, many others who had heard something vague. And only 
those who had been there knew the whole truth. 

But, as though stricken dumb on the islands of the Archipelago, they kept their silence. 

By an unexpected turn of our history, a bit of the truth, an insignificant part of the whole, was 
allowed out in the open. But those same hands which once screwed tight our handcuffs now hold out 
their palms in reconciliation: "No, don't! Don't dig up the past! Dwell on the past and you'll lose an 
eye." 

But the proverb goes on to say: "Forget the past and you'll lose both eyes." 

Decades go by, and the scars and sores of the past are healing over for good. In the course of this 
period some of the islands of the Archipelago have shuddered and dissolved and the polar sea of 
oblivion rolls over them. And someday in the future, this Archipelago, its air, and the bones of its 
inhabitants, frozen in a lens of ice, will be discovered by our descendants like some improbable 
salamander. 

I would not be so bold as to try to write the history of the Archipelago. I have never had the chance 
to read the documents. And, in fact, will anyone ever have the chance to read them? Those who do 
not wish to recall have already had enough time — and will have more — to destroy all the documents, 
down to the very last one. 

I have absorbed into myself my own eleven years there not as something shameful nor as a 
nightmare to be cursed: I have come almost to love that monstrous world, and now, by a happy turn 
of events, I have also been entrusted with many recent reports and letters. So perhaps I shall be able 
to give some account of the bones and flesh of that salamander — which, incidentally, is still alive. 

This book could never have been created by one person alone. In addition to what I myself was able 
to take away from the Archipelago — on the skin of my back, and with my eyes and ears — material 
for this book was given me in reports, memoirs, and letters by 227 witnesses, whose names were to 
have been listed here. 

What I here express to them is not personal gratitude, because this is our common, collective 
monument to all those who were tortured and murdered. 

From among them I would like to single out in particular those who worked hard to help me obtain 
supporting bibliographical material from books to be found in contemporary libraries or from books 



long since removed from libraries and destroyed; great persistence was often required to find even 
one copy which had been preserved. Even more would I like to pay tribute to those who helped me 
keep this manuscript concealed in difficult periods and then to have it copied. 

But the time has not yet come when I dare name them. 

The old Solovetsky Islands prisoner Dmitri Petrovich Vitkovsky was to have been editor of this 
book. But his half a lifetime spent there — indeed, his own camp memoirs are entitled "Half a 
Lifetime" — resulted in untimely paralysis, and it was not until after he had already been deprived of 
the gift of speech that he was able to read several completed chapters only and see for himself that 
everything will be told. 

And if freedom still does not dawn on my country for a long time to come, then the very reading and 
handing on of this book will be very dangerous, so that I am bound to salute future readers as well — 
on behalf of those who have perished. 

When I began to write this book in 1958, 1 knew of no memoirs nor works of literature dealing with 
the camps. During my years of work before 1967 I gradually became acquainted with the Kolyma 
Stories of Varlam Shalamov and the memoirs of Dmitri Vitkovsky, Y. Ginzburg, and O. Adamova- 
Sliozberg, to which I refer in the course of my narrative as literary facts known to all (as indeed they 
someday shall be). 

Despite their intent and against their will, certain persons provided invaluable material for this book 
and helped preserve many important facts and statistics as well as the very air they breathed: M. I. 
Sudrabs-Latsis, N. V. Krylenko, the Chief State Prosecutor for many years, his heir A. Y. 
Vyshinsky, and those jurists who were his accomplices, among whom one must single out in 
particular I. L. Averbakh. 

Material for this book was also provided by thirty-six Soviet writers, headed by Maxim Gorky, 
authors of the disgraceful book on the White Sea Canal, which was the first in Russian literature to 
glorify slave labor. 



Chapter 1 
Arrest 



How do people get to this clandestine Archipelago? Hour by hour planes fly there, ships steer their 
course there, and trains thunder off to it — but all with nary a mark on them to tell of their destination. 
And at ticket windows or at travel bureaus for Soviet or foreign tourists the employees would be 
astounded if you were to ask for a ticket to go there. They know nothing and they've never heard of 



the Archipelago as a whole or of any one of its innumerable islands. 

Those who go to the Archipelago to administer it get there via the training schools of the Ministry of 
Internal Affairs. 

Those who go there to be guards are conscripted via the military conscription centers. 

And those who, like you and me, dear reader, go there to die, must get there solely and compulsorily 
via arrest. 

Arrest! Need it be said that it is a breaking point in your life, a bolt of lightning which has scored a 
direct hit on you? That it is an unassimilable spiritual earthquake not every person can cope with, as 
a result of which people often slip into insanity? 

The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of 
the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: "You are under arrest. " 

If you are arrested, can anything else remain unshattered by this cataclysm? 

But the darkened mind is incapable of embracing these displacements in our universe, and both the 
most sophisticated and the veriest simpleton among us, drawing on all life's experience, can gasp out 
only: "Me? What for?" 

And this is a question which, though repeated millions and millions of times before, has yet to 
receive an answer. 

Arrest is an instantaneous, shattering thrust, expulsion, somersault from one state into another. 

We have been happily borne — or perhaps have unhappily dragged our weary way — down the long 
and crooked streets of our lives, past all kinds of walls and fences made of rotting wood, rammed 
earth, brick, concrete, iron railings. We have never given a thought to what lies behind them. We 
have never tried to penetrate them with our vision or our understanding. But there is where the Gulag 
country begins, right next to us, two yards away from us. In addition, we have failed to notice an 
enormous number of closely fitted, well-disguised doors and gates in these fences. All those gates 
were prepared for us, every last one! And all of a sudden the fateful gate swings quickly open, and 
four white male hands, unaccustomed to physical labor but nonetheless strong and tenacious, grab us 
by the leg, arm, collar, cap, ear, and drag us in like a sack, and the gate behind us, the gate to our past 
Ufe, is slammed shut once and for all. 

That's all there is to it! You are arrested! 

And you'll find nothing better to respond with than a lamblike bleat: "Me? What for?" 

That's what arrest is: it's a blinding flash and a blow which shifts the present instantly into the past 
and the impossible into omnipotent actuality. 

That's all. And neither for the first hour nor for the first day will you be able to grasp anything else. 

Except that in your desperation the fake circus moon will blink at you: "It's a mistake! They'll set 
things right!" 

And everything which is by now comprised in the traditional, even literary, image of an arrest will 
pile up and take shape, not in your own disordered memory, but in what your family and your 
neighbors in your apartment remember: The sharp night-time ring or the rude knock at the door. The 



insolent entrance of the unwiped jackboots of the unsleeping State Security operatives. The 
frightened and cowed civilian witness at their backs. (And what function does this civilian witness 
serve? The victim doesn't even dare think about it and the operatives don't remember, but that's what 
the regulations call for, and so he has to sit there all night long and sign in the morning. 

[The regulation, purposeless in itself, derives, N.M. recalls, from that strange time when the citizenry 
not only was supposed to but actually dared to verify the actions of the police.] 

For the witness, jerked from his bed, it is torture too — to go out night after night to help arrest his 
own neighbors and acquaintances.) 

The traditional image of arrest is also trembling hands packing for the victim — a change of 
underwear, a piece of soap, something to eat; and no one knows what is needed, what is permitted, 
what clothes are best to wear; and the Security agents keep interrupting and hurrying you: 

"You don't need anything. They'll feed you there. It's warm there." (It's all lies. They keep hurrying 
you to frighten you.) 

The traditional image of arrest is also what happens afterward, when the poor victim has been taken 
away. It is an alien, brutal, and crushing force totally dominating the apartment for hours on end, a 
breaking, ripping open, pulling from the walls, emptying things from wardrobes and desks onto the 
floor, shaking, dumping out, and ripping apart — piling up mountains of litter on the floor — and the 
crunch of things being trampled beneath jackboots. And nothing is sacred in a search! During the 
arrest of the locomotive engineer Inoshin, a tiny coffin stood in his room containing the body of his 
newly dead child. The "jurists" dumped the child's body out of the coffin and searched it. They shake 
sick people out of their sickbeds, and they unwind bandages to search beneath them. 

[When in 1937 they wiped out Dr. Kazakov's institute, the "commission" broke up the jars 
containing the ly sates developed by him, even though patients who had been cured and others still 
being treated rushed around them, begging them to preserve the miraculous medicines. (According 
to the official version, the lysates were supposed to be poisons; in that case, why should they not 
have been kept as material evidence?)] 

Nothing is so stupid as to be inadmissible during a search! For example, they seized from the 
antiquarian Chetverukhin "a certain number of pages of Tsarist decrees" — to wit, the decree on 
ending the war with Napoleon, on the formation of the Holy Alliance, and a proclamation of public 
prayers against cholera during the epidemic of 1830. From our greatest expert on Tibet, Vostrikov, 
they confiscated ancient Tibetan manuscripts of great value; and it took the pupils of the deceased 
scholar thirty years to wrest them from the KGB ! When the Orientalist Nevsky was arrested, they 
grabbed Tangut manuscripts — and twenty -five years later the deceased victim was posthumously 
awarded a Lenin Prize for deciphering them. From Karger they took his archive of the Yenisei 
Ostyaks and vetoed the alphabet and vocabulary he had developed for this people — and a small 
nationality was thereby left without any written language. It would take a long time to describe all 
this in educated speech, but there's a folk saying about the search which covers the subject: They are 
looking for something which was never put there. They carry off whatever they have seized, but 
sometimes they compel the arrested individual to carry it. Thus Nina Aleksandrovna Palchinskaya 
hauled over her shoulder a bag filled with the papers and letters of her eternally busy and active 
husband, the late great Russian engineer, carrying it into their maw — once and for all, forever. 

For those left behind after the arrest there is the long tail end of a wrecked and devastated Ufe. And 
the attempts to go and deliver food parcels. But from all the windows the answer comes in barking 
voices: "Nobody here by that name!" "Never heard of him!" Yes, and in the worst days in Leningrad 
it took five days of standing in crowded lines just to get to that window. And it may be only after 
half a year or a year that the arrested person responds at all. Or else the answer is tossed out: 



"Deprived of the right to correspond." And that means once and for all. "No right to 
correspondence" — and that almost for certain means: "Has been shot." 

[In other words, "We live in the cursed conditions in which a human being can disappear into the 
void and even his closest relatives, his mother and his wife ... do not know for years what has 
become of him." Is that right or not? That is what Lenin wrote in 1910 in his obituary of Babushkin. 
But let's speak frankly: Babushkin was transporting arms for an uprising, and was caught with them 
when he was shot. He knew what he was doing. You couldn't say that about helpless rabbits like us.] 

That's how we picture arrest to ourselves. 

The kind of night arrest described is, in fact, a favorite, because it has important advantages. 
Everyone living in the apartment is thrown into a state of terror by the first knock at the door. The 
arrested person is torn from the warmth of his bed. He is in a daze, half-asleep, helpless, and his 
judgment is befogged. In a night arrest the State Security men have a superiority in numbers; there 
are many of them, armed, against one person who hasn't even finished buttoning his trousers. During 
the arrest and search it is highly improbable that a crowd of potential supporters will gather at the 
entrance. The unhurried, step-by-step visits, first to one apartment, then to another, tomorrow to a 
third and a fourth, provide an opportunity for the Security operations personnel to be deployed with 
the maximum efficiency and to imprison many more citizens of a given town than the police force 
itself numbers. 

In addition, there's an advantage to night arrests in that neither the people in neighboring apartment 
houses nor those on the city streets can see how many have been taken away. Arrests which frighten 
the closest neighbors are no event at all to those farther away. It's as if they had not taken place. 
Along that same asphalt ribbon on which the Black Marias scurry at night, a tribe of youngsters 
strides by day with banners, flowers, and gay, untroubled songs. 

But those who take, whose work consists solely of arrests, for whom the horror is boringly repetitive, 
have a much broader understanding of how arrests operate. They operate according to a large body 
of theory, and innocence must not lead one to ignore this. The science of arrest is an important 
segment of the course on general penology and has been propped up with a substantial body of social 
theory. Arrests are classified according to various criteria: nighttime and daytime; at home, at work, 
during a journey; first-time arrests and repeats; individual and group arrests. Arrests are 
distinguished by the degree of surprise required, the amount of resistance expected (even though in 
tens of millions of cases no resistance was expected and in fact there was none). Arrests are also 
differentiated by the thoroughness of the required search;by instructions either to make out or not to 
make out an inventory of confiscated property or seal a room or apartment; to arrest the wife after 
the husband and send the children to an orphanage, or to send the rest of the family into exile, or to 
send the old folks to a labor camp too. 

[And there is a separate Science of Searches too. I have had the chance to read a pamphlet on this 
subject for correspondence-school law students in Alma-Ata. Its author praises highly those police 
officials who in the course of their searches went so far as to turn over two tons of manure, eight 
cubic yards of firewood, or two loads of hay; cleaned the snow from an entire collective-farm 
vegetable plot, dismantled brick ovens, dug up cesspools, checked out toilet bowls, looked into 
doghouses, chicken coops, birdhouses, tore apart mattresses, ripped adhesive tape off people's bodies 
and even tore out metal teeth in the search for microfilm. Students were advised to begin and to end 
with a body search (during the course of the search the arrested person might have grabbed up 
something that had already been examined). They were also advised to return to the site of a search 
at a different time of day and carry out the search all over again.] 

No, no: arrests vary widely in form. In 1926 Irma Mendel, a Hungarian, obtained through the 
Comintern two front-row tickets to the Bolshoi Theatre. Interrogator Klegel was courting her at the 



time and she invited him to go with her. They sat through the show very affectionately, and when it 
was over he took her — straight to the Lubyanka. And if on a flowering June day in 1927 on 
Kuznetsky Most, the plump-cheeked, redheaded beauty Anna Skripnikova, who had just bought 
some navy-blue material for a dress, climbed into a hansom cab with a young man-about-town, you 
can be sure it wasn't a lovers' tryst at all, as the cabman understood very well and showed by his 
frown (he knew the Organs don't pay). It was an arrest. In just a moment they would turn on the 
Lubyanka and enter the black maw of the gates. And if, some twenty-two springs later. Navy 
Captain Second Rank Boris Burkovsky, wearing a white tunic and a trace of expensive eau de 
cologne, was buying a cake for a young lady, do not take an oath that the cake would ever reach the 
young lady and not be sliced up instead by the knives of the men searching the captain and then 
delivered to him in his first cell. No, one certainly cannot say that daylight arrest, arrest during a 
journey, or arrest in the middle of a crowd has ever been neglected in our country. However, it has 
always been clean-cut — and, most surprising of all, the victims, in cooperation with the Security 
men, have conducted themselves in the noblest conceivable manner, so as to spare the living from 
witnessing the death of the condemned. 

Not everyone can be arrested at home, with a preliminary knock at the door (and if there is a knock, 
then it has to be the house manager or else the postman). And not everyone can be arrested at work 
either. If the person to be arrested is vicious, then it's better to seize him outside his ordinary 
milieu — away from his family and colleagues, from those who share his views, from any hiding 
places. It is essential that he have no chance to destroy, hide, or pass on anything to anyone. VIP's in 
the military or the Party were sometimes first given new assignments, ensconced in a private railway 
car, and then arrested en route. Some obscure, ordinary mortal, scared to death by epidemic arrests 
all around him and already depressed for a week by sinister glances from his chief, is suddenly 
summoned to the local Party committee, where he is beamingly presented with a vacation ticket to a 
Sochi sanatorium. The rabbit is overwhelmed and immediately concludes that his fears were 
groundless. After expressing his gratitude, he hurries home, triumphant, to pack his suitcase. It is 
only two hours till train time, and he scolds his wife for being too slow. He arrives at the station with 
time to spare. And there in the waiting room or at the bar he is hailed by an extraordinarily pleasant 
young man: "Don't you remember me, Pyotr Ivanich?" Pyotr Ivanich has difficulty remembering: 
"Well, not exactly, you see, although ..." The young man, however, is overflowing with friendly 
concern: "Come now, how can that be? I'll have to remind you. ..." And he bows respectfully to 
Pyotr Ivanich's wife: "You must forgive us. I'll keep him only one minute." The wife accedes, and 
trustingly the husband lets himself be led away by the arm — forever or for ten years! 

The station is thronged — and no one notices anything. . . . Oh, you citizens who love to travel! Do 
not forget that in every station there are a GPU Branch and several prison cells. 

This importunity of alleged acquaintances is so abrupt that only a person who has not had the 
wolfish preparation of camp life is likely to pull back from it. Do not suppose, for example, that if 
you are an employee of the American Embassy by the name of Alexander D. you cannot be arrested 
in broad daylight on Gorky Street, right by the Central Telegraph Office. Your unfamiliar friend 
dashes through the press of the crowd, and opens his plundering arms to embrace you: "Saaasha!" He 
simply shouts at you, with no effort to be inconspicuous. "Hey, pal! Long time no see! Come on 
over, let's get out of the way." At that moment a Pobeda sedan draws up to the curb. . . . And several 
days later TASS will issue an angry statement to all the papers alleging that informed circles of the 
Soviet government have no information on the disappearance of Alexander D. But what's so unusual 
about that? Our boys have carried out such arrests in Brussels — which was where Zhora Blednov 
was seized — not just in Moscow. 

One has to give the Organs their due: in an age when public speeches, the plays in our theaters, and 
women's fashions all seem to have come off assembly lines, arrests can be of the most varied kind. 
They take you aside in a factory corridor after you have had your pass checked — and you're arrested. 
They take you from a military hospital with a temperature of 102, as they did with Ans Bemshtein, 



and the doctor will not raise a peep about your arrest — just let him try! They'll take you right off the 
operating table — as they took N. M. Vorobyev, a school inspector, in 1936, in the middle of an 
operation for stomach ulcer — and drag you off to a cell, as they did him, half-alive and all bloody (as 
Karpunich recollects). Or, like Nadya Levitskaya, you try to get information about your mother's 
sentence, and they give it to you, but it turns out to be a confrontation — and your own arrest! In the 
Gastronome — the fancy food store — you are invited to the special-order department and arrested 
there. You are arrested by a religious pilgrim whom you have put up for the night "for the sake of 
Christ." You are arrested by a meterman who has come to read your electric meter. You are arrested 
by a bicyclist who has run into you on the street, by a railway conductor, a taxi driver, a savings 
bank teller, the manager of a movie theater. Any one of them can arrest you, and you notice the 
concealed maroon-colored identification card only when it is too late. 

Sometimes arrests even seem to be a game — there is so much superfluous imagination, so much 
well-fed energy, invested in them. After all, the victim would not resist anyway. Is it that the 
Security agents want to justify their employment and their numbers? After all, it would seem enough 
to send notices to all the rabbits marked for arrest, and they would show up obediently at the 
designated hour and minute at the iron gates of State Security with a bundle in their hands — ready to 
occupy a piece of floor in the cell for which they were intended. And, in fact, that's the way 
collective fanners are arrested. Who wants to go all the way to a hut at night, with no roads to travel 
on? They are summoned to the village soviet — and arrested there. Manual workers are called into 
the office. 

Of course, every machine has a point at which it is overloaded, beyond which it cannot function. In 
the strained and overloaded years of 1945 and 1946, when trainload after trainload poured in from 
Europe, to be swallowed up immediately and sent off to Gulag, all that excessive theatricality went 
out the window, and the whole theory suffered greatly. All the fuss and feathers of ritual went flying 
in every direction, and the arrest of tens of thousands took on the appearance of a squalid roll call: 
they stood there with lists, read off the names of those on one train, loaded them onto another, and 
that was the whole arrest. 

For several decades political arrests were distinguished in our country precisely by the fact that 
people were arrested who were guilty of nothing and were therefore unprepared to put up any 
resistance whatsoever. There was a general feeling of being destined for destruction, a sense of 
having nowhere to escape from the GPU-NKVD (which, incidentally, given our internal passport 
system, was quite accurate). And even in the fever of epidemic arrests, when people leaving for work 
said farewell to their families every day, because they could not be certain they would return at 
night, even then almost no one tried to run away and only in rare cases did people commit suicide. 
And that was exactly what was required. A submissive sheep is a find for a wolf. 

This submissiveness was also due to ignorance of the mechanics of epidemic arrests. By and large, 
the Organs had no profound reasons for their choice of whom to arrest and whom not to arrest. They 
merely had over-all assignments, quotas for a specific number of arrests. These quotas might be 
filled on an orderly basis or wholly arbitrarily. In 1937 a woman came to the reception room of the 
Novocherkassk NKVD to ask what she should do about the unfed unweaned infant of a neighbor 
who had been arrested. They said: "Sit down, we'll find out." She sat there for two hours — 
whereupon they took her and tossed her into a cell. They had a total plan which had to be fulfilled in 
a hurry, and there was no one available to send out into the city — and here was this woman already 
in their hands! 

On the other hand, the NKVD did come to get the Latvian Andrei Pavel near Orsha. But he didn't 
open the door; he jumped out the window, escaped, and shot straight to Siberia. And even though he 

lived under his own name, and it was clear from his documents that he had come from Orsha, he was 
never arrested, nor summoned to the Organs, nor subjected to any suspicion whatsoever. After all, 
search for wanted persons falls into three categories: Ail-Union, republican, and provincial. And the 



pursuit of nearly half of those arrested in those epidemics would have been confined to the 
provinces. A person marked for arrest by virtue of chance circumstances, such as a neighbor's 
denunciation, could be easily replaced by another neighbor. Others, like Andrei Pavel, who found 
themselves in a trap or an ambushed apartment by accident, and who were bold enough to escape 
immediately, before they could be questioned, were never caught and never charged; while those 
who stayed behind to await justice got a term in prison. And the overwhelming majority — almost 
all — behaved just like that: without any spirit, helplessly, with a sense of doom. 

It is true, of course, that the NKVD, in the absence of the person it wanted, would make his relatives 
guarantee not to leave the area. And, of course, it was easy enough to cook up a case against those 
who stayed behind to replace the one who had fled. 

Universal innocence also gave rise to the universal failure to act. Maybe they won't take you? Maybe 
it will all blow over? A. I. Ladyzhensky was the chief teacher in a school in remote Kologriv. In 
1937 a peasant approached him in an open market and passed him a message from a third person: 
"Aleksandr Ivanich, get out of town, you are on the list!" But he stayed: After all, the whole school 
rests on my shoulders, and their own children are pupils here. How can they arrest me? (Several days 
later he was arrested.) Not everyone was so fortunate as to understand at the age of fourteen, as did 
Vanya Levitsky: "Every honest man is sure to go to prison. Right now my papa is serving time, and 
when I grow up they'll put me in too." (They put him in when he was twenty -three years old.) The 
majority sit quietly and dare to hope. Since you aren't guilty, then how can they arrest you? It's a 
mistake! They are already dragging you along by the collar, and you still keep on exclaiming to 
yourself: "It's a mistake! They'll set things straight and let me out!" Others are being arrested en 
masse, and that's a bothersome fact, but in those other cases there is always some dark area: "Maybe 
he was guilty . . . ?" But as for you, you are obviously innocent! You still believe that the Organs are 
humanly logical institutions: they will set things straight and let you out. 

Why, then, should you run away? And how can you resist right then? After all, you'll only make 
your situation worse; you'll make it more difficult for them to sort out the mistake. And it isn't just 
that you don't put up any resistance; you even walk down the stairs on tiptoe, as you are ordered to 
do, so your neighbors won't hear. 

[And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every 
Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he 
would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for 
example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there 
in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the 
staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs 
hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? 
After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And 
you could be sure ahead of time that you'd be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the 
Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur — what if it had been driven off 
or its tires spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport 
and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! 

If ... if ... We didn't love freedom enough. And even more — we had no awareness of the real 
situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried io submit. 
We submitted with pleasure! (Arthur Ransome describes a workers' meeting in Yaroslavl in 1921. 
Delegates were sent to the workers from the Central Committee in Moscow to confer on the 
substance of the argument about trade unions. The representative of the opposition, Y. Larin, 
explained to the workers that their trade union must be their defense against the administration, that 
they possessed rights which they had won and upon which no one else had any right to infringe. The 
workers, however, were completely indifferent, simply not comprehending whom they still needed 
to be defended against and why they still needed any rights. When the spokesman for the Party line 



rebuked them for their laziness and for getting out of hand, and demanded sacrifices from them — 
overtime work without pay, reductions in food, military discipline in the factory administration — this 
aroused great elation and applause.) We purely and simply deserved everything that happened 
afterward.] 

At what exact point, then, should one resist? When one's belt is taken away? When one is ordered to 
face into a corner? When one crosses the threshold of one's home? An arrest consists of a series of 
incidental irrelevancies, of a multitude of things that do not matter, and there seems no point in 
arguing about any one of them individually — especially at a time when the thoughts of the person 
arrested are wrapped tightly about the big question: "What for?" — and yet all these incidental 
irrelevancies taken together implacably constitute the arrest. 

Almost anything can occupy the thoughts of a person who has just been arrested! This alone would 
fill volumes. There can be feelings which we never suspected. When nineteen-year-old Yevgeniya 
Doyarenko was arrested in 1921 and three young Chekists were poking about her bed and through 
the underwear in her chest of drawers, she was not disturbed. There was nothing there, and they 
would find nothing. But all of a sudden they touched her personal diary, which she would not have 
shown even to her own mother. And these hostile young strangers reading the words she had written 
was more devastating to her than the whole Lubyanka with its bars and its cellars. It is true of many 
that the outrage inflicted by arrest on their personal feelings and attachments can be far, far stronger 
than their political beliefs or their fear of prison. A person who is not inwardly prepared for the use 
of violence against him is always weaker than the person committing the violence. 

There are a few bright and daring individuals who understand instantly. Grigoryev, the Director of 
the Geological Institute of the Academy of Sciences, barricaded himself inside and spent two hours 
burning up his papers when they came to arrest him in 1948. 

Sometimes the principal emotion of the person arrested is relief and even happiness! This is another 

aspect of human nature. It happened before the Revolution too: the Yekaterinodar schoolteacher 
Serdyukova, involved in the case of Aleksandr Ulyanov, felt only relief when she was arrested. But 
this feeling was a thousand times stronger during epidemics of arrests when all around you they were 
hauling in people like yourself and still had not come for you; for some reason they were taking their 
time. After all, that kind of exhaustion, that kind of suffering, is worse than any kind of arrest, and 
not only for a person of limited courage. Vasily Vlasov, a fearless Communist, whom we shall recall 
more than once later on, renounced the idea of escape proposed by his non-Party assistants, and 
pined away because the entire leadership of the Kady District was arrested in 1937, and they kept 
delaying and delaying his own arrest. He could only endure the blow head on. He did endure it, and 
then he relaxed, and during the first days after his arrest he felt marvelous. In 1934 the priest Father 
Irakly went to Alma-Ata to visit some believers in exile there. During his absence they came three 
times to his Moscow apartment to arrest him. When he returned, members of his flock met him at the 
station and refused to let him go home, and for eight years hid him in one apartment after another. 
The priest suffered so painfully from this harried life that when he was finally arrested in 1942 he 
sang hymns of praise to God. 

In this chapter we are speaking only of the masses, the helpless rabbits arrested for no one knows 
what reason. But in this book we will also have to touch on those who in postrevolutionary times 
remained genuinely political. Vera Rybakova, a Social Democratic student, dreamed when she was 
in freedom of being in the detention center in Suzdal. Only there did she hope to encounter her old 
comrades — for there were none of them left in freedom. And only there could she work out her 
world outlook. The Socialist Revolutionary — the SR — Yekaterina Olitskaya didn't consider herself 
worthy of being imprisoned in 1924. After all, Russia's best people had served time and she was still 
young and had not yet done anything for Russia. But freedom itself was expelling her. And so both 
of them went to prison — with pride and happiness. 



"Resistance! Why didn't you resist?" Today those who have continued to live on in comfort scold 
those who suffered. 

Yes, resistance should have begun right there, at the moment of the arrest itself. 
But it did not begin. 

And so they are leading you. During a daylight arrest there is always that brief and unique moment 
when they are leading you, either inconspicuously, on the basis of a cowardly deal you have made, 
or else quite openly, their pistols unholstered, through a crowd of hundreds of just such doomed 
innocents as yourself. You aren't gagged. You really can and you really ought to cry out — to cry out 
that you are being arrested! That villains in disguise are trapping people! That arrests are being made 
on the strength of false denunciations! That millions are being subjected to silent reprisals! If many 
such outcries had been heard all over the city in the course of a day, would not our fellow citizens 
perhaps have begun to bristle? And would arrests perhaps no longer have been so easy? 

In 1927, when submissiveness had not yet softened our brains to such a degree, two Chekists tried to 
arrest a woman on Serpukhov Square during the day. She grabbed hold of the stanchion of a 
streetlamp and began to scream, refusing to submit. A crowd gathered. (There had to have been that 
kind of woman; there had to have been that kind of crowd too! Passers-by didn't all just close their 
eyes and hurry by!) The quick young men immediately became flustered. They can't work in the 
public eye. They got into their car and fled. (Right then and there she should have gone to a railroad 
station and left! But she went home to spend the night. And during the night they took her off to the 
Lubyanka.) 

Instead, not one sound comes from your parched lips, and that passing crowd naively believes that 
you and your executioners are friends out for a stroll. 

I myself often had the chance to cry out. 

On the eleventh day after my arrest, three SMERSH bums, more burdened by four suitcases full of 
war booty than by me (they had come to rely on me in the course of the long trip), brought me to the 
Byelorussian Station in Moscow. They were called a Special Convoy — in other words, a special 
escort guard — but in actual fact their automatic pistols only interfered with their dragging along the 
four terribly heavy bags of loot they and their chiefs in SMERSH counterintelligence on the Second 
Byelorussian Front had plundered in Germany and were now bringing to their families in the 
Fatherland under the pretext of convoying me. I myself lugged a fifth suitcase with no great joy since 
it contained my diaries and literary works, which were being used as evidence against me. 

Not one of the three knew the city, and it was up to me to pick the shortest route to the prison. I had 
personally to conduct them to the Lubyanka, where they had never been before (and which, in fact, I 
confused with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). 

I had spent one day in the counterintelligence prison at army headquarters and three days in the 
counterintelligence prison at the headquarters of the front, where my cellmates had educated me in 
the deceptions practiced by the interrogators, their threats and beatings; in the fact that once a person 
was arrested he was never released; and in the inevitability of a tenner, a ten-year sentence; and then 
by a miracle I had suddenly burst out of there and for four days had traveled like a free person 
among /ree people, even though my flanks had already lain on rotten straw beside the latrine bucket, 
my eyes had already beheld beaten-up and sleepless men, my ears had heard the truth, and my mouth 
had tasted prison gruel. So why did I keep silent? Why, in my last minute out in the open, did I not 
attempt to enlighten the hoodwinked crowd? 

I kept silent, too, in the Polish city of Brodnica — but maybe they didn't understand Russian there. I 



didn't call out one word on the streets of Bialystok — but maybe it wasn't a matter that concerned the 
Poles. I didn't utter a sound at the Volkovysk Station — but there were very few people there. I 
walked along the Minsk Station platform beside those same bandits as if nothing at all were amiss — 
but the station was still a ruin. And now I was leading the SMERSH men through the circular upper 
concourse of the Byelorussian-Radial subway station on the Moscow circle line, with its white- 
ceilinged dome and brilliant electric lights, and opposite us two parallel escalators, thickly packed 
with Muscovites, rising from below. It seemed as though they were all looking at me! They kept 
coming in an endless ribbon from down there, from the depths of ignorance — on and on beneath the 
gleaming dome, reaching toward me for at least one word of truth — so why did I keep silent? 

Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself. 

Some still have hopes of a favorable outcome to their case and are afraid to ruin their chances by an 
outcry. (For, after all, we get no news from that other world, and we do not realize that from the very 
moment of arrest our fate has almost certainly been decided in the worst possible sense and that we 
cannot make it any worse.) Others have not yet attained the mature concepts on which a shout of 
protest to the crowd must be based. Indeed, only a revolutionary has slogans on his lips that are 
crying to be uttered aloud; and where would the uninvolved, peaceable average man come by such 
slogans? He simply does not know what to shout. And then, last of all, there is the person whose 
heart is too full of emotion, whose eyes have seen too much, for that whole ocean to pour forth in a 
few disconnected cries. 

As for me, I kept silent for one further reason: because those Muscovites thronging the steps of the 
escalators were too few for me, too few! Here my cry would be heard by 200 or twice 200, but what 
about the 200 million? Vaguely, unclearly, I had a vision that someday I would cry out to the 200 
million. 

But for the time being I did not open my mouth, and the escalator dragged me implacably down into 
the nether world. 

And when I got to Okhotny Ryad, I continued to keep silent. Nor did I utter a cry at the Metropole 
Hotel. 

Nor wave my arms on the Golgotha of Lubyanka Square. 

Mine was, probably, the easiest imaginable kind of arrest. It did not tear me from the embrace of kith 
and kin, nor wrench me from a deeply cherished home life. One pallid European February it took me 
from our narrow salient on the Baltic Sea, where, depending on one's point of view, either we had 
surrounded the Germans or they had surrounded us, and it deprived me only of my familiar artillery 
battery and the scenes of the last three months of the war. 

The brigade commander called me to his headquarters and asked me for my pistol; I turned it over 
without suspecting any evil intent, when suddenly, from a tense, immobile suite of staff officers in 
the comer, two counterintelligence officers stepped forward hurriedly, crossed the room in a few 
quick bounds, their four hands grabbed simultaneously at the star on my cap, my shoulder boards, 
my officer's belt, my map case, and they shouted theatrically: 

"You are under arrest!" 

Burning and prickling from head to toe, all I could exclaim was: 
"Me? What for?" 

And even though there is usually no answer to this question, surprisingly I received one! This is 



worth recalling, because it is so contrary to our usual custom. Hardly had the SMERSH men finished 
"plucking" me and taken my notes on political subjects, along with my map case, and begun to push 
me as quickly as possible toward the exit, urged on by the German shellfire rattling the 
windowpanes, than I heard myself firmly addressed — yes! Across the sheer gap separating me from 
those left behind, the gap created by the heavy-falling word "arrest," across that quarantine line not 
even a sound dared penetrate, came the unthinkable, magic words of the brigade commander: 

"Solzhenitsyn. Come back here." 

With a sharp turn I broke away from the hands of the SMERSH men and stepped back to the brigade 
commander. I had never known him very well. He had never condescended to run-of-the-mill 
conversations with me. To me his face had always conveyed an order, a command, wrath. But right 
now it was illuminated in a thoughtful way. Was it from shame for his own involuntary part in this 
dirty business? Was it from an impulse to rise above the pitiful subordination of a whole lifetime? 
Ten days before, I had led my own reconnaissance battery almost intact out of the fire pocket in 
which the twelve heavy guns of his artillery battalion had been left, and now he had to renounce me 
because of a piece of paper with a seal on it? 

"You have . . ."he asked weightily, "a friend on the First Ukrainian Front?" 

"It's forbidden! You have no right!" the captain and the major of counterintelligence shouted at the 
colonel. In the corner, the suite of staff officers crowded closer to each other in fright, as if they 
feared to share the brigade commander's unbelievable rashness (the political officers among them 
already preparing to present materials against him). But I had already understood: I knew instantly I 
had been arrested because of my correspondence with a school friend, and understood from what 
direction to expect danger. 

Zakhar Georgiyevich Travkin could have stopped right there! But no! Continuing his attempt to 
expunge his part in this and to stand erect before his own conscience, he rose from behind his desk — 
he had never stood up in my presence in my former life — and reached across the quarantine line that 
separated us and gave me his hand, although he would never have reached out his hand to me had I 
remained a free man. And pressing my hand, while his whole suite stood there in mute horror, 
showing that warmth that may appear in an habitually severe face, he said fearlessly and precisely: 

"I wish you happiness. Captain!" 

Not only was I no longer a captain, but I had been exposed as an enemy of the people (for among us 
every person is totally exposed from the moment of arrest). And he had wished happiness — to an 
enemy? 

[ Here is what is most surprising of all: one can be a human being despite everything! Nothing 
happened to Travkin. Not long ago, we met again cordially, and I really got to know him for the first 
time. He is a retired general and an inspector of the Hunters' Alliance.] 

The panes rattled. The German shells tore up the earth two hundred yards away, reminding one that 
this could not have happened back in the rear, under the ordinary circumstances of established 
existence, but only out here, under the breath of death, which was not only close by but in the face of 
which all were equal. 

This is not going to be a volume of memoirs about my own life. Therefore I am not going to recount 
the truly amusing details of my arrest, which was like no other. That night the SMERSH officers 
gave up their last hope of being able to make out where we were on the map — they never had been 
able to read maps anyway. So they politely handed the map to me and asked me to tell the driver 
how to proceed to counterintelligence at army headquarters. I, therefore, led them and myself to that 



prison, and in gratitude they immediately put me not in an ordinary cell but in a punishment cell. 
And I really must describe that closet in a German peasant house which served as a temporary 
punishment cell. 

It was the length of one human body and wide enough for three to lie packed tightly, four at a pinch. 
As it happened, I was the fourth, shoved in after midnight. The three lying there blinked sleepily at 
me in the light of the smoky kerosene lantern and moved over, giving me enough space to lie on my 
side, half between them, half on top of them, until gradually, by sheer weight, I could wedge my way 
in. And so four overcoats lay on the crushed-straw-covered floor, with eight boots pointing at the 
door. They slept and I burned. The more self-assured I had been as a captain half a day before, the 
more painful it was to crowd onto the floor of that closet. Once or twice the other fellows woke up 
numb on one side, and we all turned over at the same time. 

Toward morning they awoke, yawned, grunted, pulled up their legs, moved into various comers, and 
our acquaintance began. 

"What are you in for?" 

But a troubled little breeze of caution had already breathed on me beneath the poisoned roof of 
SMERSH and I pretended to be surprised: 

"No idea. Do the bastards tell you?" 

However, my cellmates — tankmen in soft black helmets — hid nothing. They were three honest, 
openhearted soldiers — people of a kind I had become attached to during the war years because I 
myself was more complex and worse. All three had been officers. Their shoulder boards also had 
been viciously torn off, and in some places the cotton batting stuck out. On their stained field shirts 
Ught patches indicated where decorations had been removed, and there were dark and red scars on 
their faces and arms, the results of wounds and burns. Their tank unit had, unfortunately, arrived for 
repairs in the village where the SMERSH counterintelligence headquarters of the Forty-eighth Army 
was located. Still damp from the battle of the day before, yesterday they had gotten drunk, and on the 
outskirts of the village broke into a bath where they had noticed two raunchy broads going to bathe. 
The girls, half-dressed, managed to get away all right from the soldiers' staggering, drunken legs. But 
one of them, it turned out, was the property of the army Chief of CounterintelUgence, no less. 

Yes! For three weeks the war had been going on inside Germany, and all of us knew very well that if 
the girls were German they could be raped and then shot. This was almost a combat distinction. Had 
they been Polish girls or our own displaced Russian girls, they could have been chased naked around 
the garden and slapped on the behind — an amusement, no more. But just because this one was the 
"campaign wife" of the Chief of Counterintelligence, right off some deep-in-the-rear sergeant had 
viciously torn from three front-line officers the shoulder boards awarded them by the front 
headquarters and had taken off the decorations conferred upon them by the Presidium of the 
Supreme Soviet. And now these warriors, who had gone through the whole war and who had no 
doubt crushed more than one line of enemy trenches, were waiting for a court-martial, whose 
members, had it not been for their tank, could have come nowhere near the village. 

We put out the kerosene lamp, which had already used up all the air there was to breathe. A Judas 
hole the size of a postage stamp had been cut in the door and through it came indirect light from the 
corridor. Then, as if afraid that with the coming of daylight we would have too much room in the 
punishment cell, they tossed in a fifth person. He stepped in wearing a newish Red Army tunic and a 
cap that was also new, and when he stopped opposite the peephole we could see a fresh face with a 
tumed-up nose and red cheeks. 

"Where are you from, brother? Who are you?" 



"From the other side," he answered briskly. "A shhpy." 

"You're kidding!" We were astounded. (To be a spy and to admit it — Sheinin and the brothers Tur 
had never written that kind of spy story!) 

"What is there to kid about in wartime?" the young fellow sighed reasonably. "And just how else can 
you get back home from being a POW? Well, you tell me!" 

He had barely begun to tell us how, some days back, the Germans had led him through the front lines 
so that he could play the spy and blow up bridges, whereupon he had gone immediately to the 
nearest battalion headquarters to turn himself in; but the weary, sleep-starved battalion commander 
hadn't believed his story about being a spy and had sent him off to the nurse to get a pill. And at that 
moment new impressions burst upon us: 

"Out for toilet call! Hands behind your backs!" hollered a master sergeant hardhead as the door 
sprang open; he was just built for swinging the tail of a 122-millimeter cannon. 

A circle of machine gunners had been strung around the peasant courtyard, guarding the path which 
was pointed out to us and which went behind the bam. I was bursting with indignation that some 
ignoramus of a master sergeant dared to give orders to us officers: "Hands behind your backs!" But 
the tank officers put their hands behind them and I followed suit. 

Back of the barn was a small square area in which the snow had been all trampled down but had not 
yet melted. It was soiled all over with human feces, so densely scattered over the whole square that it 
was difficult to find a spot to place one's two feet and squat. However, we spread ourselves about 
and the five of us did squat down. Two machine gunners grimly pointed their machine pistols at us 
as we squatted, and before a minute had passed the master sergeant brusquely urged us on: 

"Come on, hurry it up! With us they do it quickly!" 

Not far from me squatted one of the tankmen, a native of Rostov, a tall, melancholy senior 
lieutenant. His face was blackened by a thin film of metallic dust or smoke, but the big red scar 
stretching across his cheek stood out nonetheless. 

"What do you mean, with us? " he asked quietly, indicating no intention of hurrying back to the 
punishment cell that still stank of kerosene. 

"In SMERSH counterintelligence!" the master sergeant shot back proudly and more resonantly than 
was called for. (The counterintelligence men used to love that tastelessly concocted word 
"SMERSH," manufactured from the initial syllables of the words for "death to spies." They felt it 
intimidated people.) 

"And with us we do it slowly," replied the senior lieutenant thoughtfully. His helmet was pulled 
back, uncovering his still untrimmed hair. His oaken, battle-hardened rear end was lifted toward the 
pleasant cooUsh breeze. 

"Where do you mean, with us? " the master sergeant barked at him more loudly than he needed to. 

"In the Red Army," the senior lieutenant replied very quietly from his heels, measuring with his look 
the cannon-tailer that never was. 

Such were my first gulps of prison air. 



Chapter 2 

The History of Our Sewage Disposal System 



When people today decry the abuses of the cult, they keep getting hung up on those years which are 
stuck in our throats, '37 and '38. And memory begins to make it seem as though arrests were never 
made before or after, but only in those two years. 

Although I have no statistics at hand, I am not afraid of erring when I say that the wave of 1937 and 
1938 was neither the only one nor even the main one, but only one, perhaps, of the three biggest 
waves which strained the murky, stinking pipes of our prison sewers to bursting. 

Before it came the wave of 1929 and 1930, the size of a good River Ob, which drove a mere fifteen 
million peasants, maybe even more, out into the taiga and the tundra. But peasants are a silent 
people, without a literary voice, nor do they write complaints or memoirs. No interrogators sweated 
out the night with them, nor did they bother to draw up formal indictments — it was enough to have a 
decree from the village soviet. This wave poured forth, sank down into the permafrost, and even our 
most active minds recall hardly a thing about it. It is as if it had not even scarred the Russian 
conscience. And yet Stalin (and you and I as well) committed no crime more heinous than this. 

And after it there was the wave of 1944 to 1946, the size of a good Yenisei, when they dumped 
whole nations down the sewer pipes, not to mention millions and millions of others who (because of 
us!) had been prisoners of war, or carried off to Germany and subsequently repatriated. (This was 
Stalin's method of cauterizing the wounds so that scar tissue would form more quickly, and thus the 
body politic as a whole would not have to rest up, catch its breath, regain its strength.) But in this 
wave, too, the people were of the simpler kind, and they wrote no memoirs. 

But the wave of 1937 swept up and carried off to the Archipelago people of position, people with a 
Party past, yes, educated people, around whom were many who had been wounded and remained in 
the cities . . . and what a lot of them had pen in hand! And today they are all writing, speaking, 
remembering: "Nineteen thirty-seven!" A whole Volga of the people's grief! 

But just say "Nineteen thirty-seven" to a Crimean Tatar, a Kalmyk, a Chechen, and he'll shrug his 
shoulders. And what's 1937 to Leningrad when 1935 had come before it? And for the second- 
termers (i.e., repeaters), or people from the Baltic countries — weren't 1948 and 1949 harder on 
them? And if sticklers for style and geography should accuse me of having omitted some Russian 
rivers, and of not yet having named some of the waves, then just give me enough paper! There were 
enough waves to use up the names of all the rivers of Russia! 

It is well known that any organ withers away if it is not used. Therefore, if we know that the Soviet 
Security organs, or Organs (and they christened themselves with this vile word), praised and exalted 
above all living things, have not died off even to the extent of one single tentacle, but, instead, have 
grown new ones and strengthened their muscles — it is easy to deduce that they have had constant 
exercise. 

Through the sewer pipes the flow pulsed. Sometimes the pressure was higher than had been 
projected, sometimes lower. But the prison sewers were never empty. The blood, the sweat, and the 
urine into which we were pulped pulsed through them continuously. The history of this sewage 
system is the history of an endless swallow and flow; flood alternating with ebb and ebb again with 
flood; waves pouring in, some big, some small; brooks and rivulets flowing in from all sides; trickles 
oozing in through gutters; and then just plain individually scooped-up droplets. 

The chronological list which follows, in which waves made up of millions of arrested persons are 
given equal attention with ordinary streamlets of unremarkable handfuls, is quite incomplete. 



meager, miserly, and limited by my own capacity to penetrate the past. What is really needed is a 
great deal of additional work by survivors famiUar with the material. 

In compiling this list the most difficult thing is to begin, partly because the further back into the 
decades one goes, the fewer the eyewitnesses who are left, and therefore the light of common 
knowledge has gone out and darkness has set in, and the written chronicles either do not exist or are 
kept under lock and key. Also, it is not entirely fair to consider in a single category the especially 
brutal years of the Civil War and the first years of peacetime, when mercy might have been 
expected. 

But even before there was any Civil War, it could be seen that Russia, due to the makeup of its 
population, was obviously not suited for any sort of socialism whatsoever. It was totally polluted. 

One of the first blows of the dictatorship was directed against the Cadets — the members of the 
Constitutional Democratic Party. (Under the Tsar they had constituted the most dangerous ranks of 
revolution, and under the government of the proletariat they represented the most dangerous ranks of 
reaction.) At the end of November, 1917, on the occasion of the first scheduled convening of the 
Constituent Assembly, which did not take place, the Cadet Party was outlawed and arrests of its 
members began. At about the same time, people associated with the "Alliance for the Constituent 
Assembly" and the students enrolled in the "soldiers' universities" were being thrown in the jug. 

Knowing the sense and spirit of the Revolution, it is easy to guess that during these months such 
central prisons as Kresty in Petrograd and the Butyrki in Moscow, and many provincial prisons like 
them, were filled with wealthy men, prominent public figures, generals and officers, as well as 
officials of ministries and of the state apparatus who refused to carry out the orders of the new 
authority. One of the first operations of the Cheka was to arrest the entire committee of the AU- 
Russian Union of Employees. 

One of the first circulars of the NKVD, in December, 1917, stated: "In view of sabotage by officials . 
. . use maximum initiative in localities, not excluding confiscations, compulsion, and arrests." 

[Vestnik NKVD (NKVD Herald), 1917, No. 1, p. 4.] 

And even though V. I. Lenin, at the end of 1917, in order to establish "strictly revolutionary order," 
demanded "merciless suppression of attempts at anarchy on the part of drunkards, hooligans, 
counterrevolutionaries, and other persons" — in other words, foresaw that drunkards and hooligans 
represented the principal danger to the October Revolution, with counterrevolutionaries somewhere 
back in third place — he nonetheless put the problem more broadly. In his essay "How to Organize 
the Competition" (January 7 and 10, 1918), V. I. Lenin proclaimed the common, united purpose of 
"purging the Russian land of all kinds of harmful insects." And under the term insects he included 
not only all class enemies but also "workers malingering at their work" — for example, the typesetters 
of the Petrograd Party printing shops. (That is what time does. It is difficult for us nowadays to 
understand how workers who had just become dictators were immediately inclined to malinger at 
work they were doing for themselves.) And then again: "In what block of a big city, in what factory, 
in what village . . . are there not . . . saboteurs who call themselves intellectuals?" True, the forms of 
insect-purging which Lenin conceived of in this essay were most varied: in some places they would 
be placed under arrest, in other places set to cleaning latrines; in some, "after having served then- 
time in punishment cells, they would be handed yellow tickets"; in others, parasites would be shot; 
elsewhere you could take your pick of imprisonment "or punishment at forced labor of the hardest 
kind." Even though he perceived and suggested the basic directions punishment should take, 
Vladimir Ilyich proposed that "communes and communities" should compete to find the best 
methods of purging. 

It is not possible for us at this time fully to investigate exactly who fell within the broad definition of 
insects; the population of Russia was too heterogeneous and encompassed small, special groups. 



entirely superfluous and, today, forgotten. The people in the local zemstvo self-governing bodies in 
the provinces were, of course, insects. People in the cooperative movement were also insects, as 
were all owners of their own homes. There were not a few insects among the teachers in the 
gymnasiums. The church parish councils were made up almost exclusively of insects, and it was 
insects, of course, who sang in church choirs. All priests were insects — and monks and nuns even 
more so. And all those Tolstoyans who, when they undertook to serve the Soviet government on, for 
example, the railroads, refused to sign the required oath to defend the Soviet government with gun in 
hand thereby showed themselves to be insects too. (We will later see some of them on trial.) The 
railroads were particularly important, for there were indeed many insects hidden beneath railroad 
uniforms, and they had to be rooted out and some of them slapped down. And telegraphers, for some 
reason, were, for the most part, inveterate insects who had no sympathy for the Soviets. Nor could 
you say a good word about Vikzhel, the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Union of Railroad 
Workers, nor about the other trade unions, which were often filled with insects hostile to the working 
class. 

Just those groups we have so far enumerated represent an enormous number of people — several 
years' worth of purge activity. 

In addition, how many kinds of cursed intellectuals there were — restless students and a variety of 
eccentrics, truth-seekers, and holy fools, of whom even Peter the Great had tried in vain to purge 
Russia and who are always a hindrance to a well-ordered, strict regime. 

It would have been impossible to carry out this hygienic purging, especially under wartime 
conditions, if they had had to follow outdated legal processes and normal judicial procedures. And so 
an entirely new form was adopted: extrajudicial reprisal, and this thankless job was self- 
sacrificingly assumed by the Cheka, the Sentinel of the Revolution, which was the only punitive 
organ in human history that combined in one set of hands investigation, arrest, interrogation, 
prosecution, trial, and execution of the verdict. 

In 1918, in order to speed up the cultural victory of the Revolution as well, they began to ransack the 
churches and throw out the relics of saints, and to carry off church plate. Popular disorders broke out 
in defense of the plundered churches and monasteries. Here and there the alarm bells rang out, and 
the true Orthodox believers rushed forth, some of them with clubs. Naturally, some had to be 
expended right on the spot and others arrested. 

In considering now the period from 1918 to 1920, we are in difficulties: Should we classify among 

the prison waves all those who were done in before they even got to prison cells? And in what 
classification should we put those whom the Committees of the Poor took behind the wing of the 
village soviet or to the rear of the courtyard, and finished Oj^ right there? Did the participants in the 
clusters of plots uncovered in every province (two in Ryazan; one in Kostroma, Vyshni Volochek, 
and Velizh; several in Kiev; several in Moscow; one in Saratov, Chernigov, Astrakhan, Seliger, 
Smolensk, Bobruisk, the Tambov Cavalry, Chembar, Velikiye Luki, Mstislavl, etc.) at least succeed 
in setting foot on the land of the Archipelago, or did they not — and are they therefore not related to 
the subject of our investigations? Bypassing the repression of the now famous rebellions (Yaroslavl, 
Murom, Rybinsk, Arzamas), we know of certain events only by their names — for instance, the 
Kolpino executions of June, 1918. What were they? Who were they? And where should they be 
classified? 

There is also no little difficulty in deciding whether we should classify among the prison waves or on 
the balance sheets of the Civil War those tens of thousands of hostages, i.e., people not personally 
accused of anything, those peaceful citizens not even listed by name, who were taken off and 
destroyed simply to terrorize or wreak vengeance on a military enemy or a re- bellious population. 
After August 30, 1918, the NKVD ordered the localities "to arrest immediately all Right Socialist 
Revolutionaries and to take a significant number of hostages from the bourgeoisie and military 



officers." 



[Vestnik NKVD, 1918, No. 21-22, p. 1.] 

(This was just as if, for example, after the attempt of Aleksandr Ulyanov's group to assassinate the 
Tsar, not only its members but all the students in Russia and a significant number ofzemstvo officials 
had been arrested.) By a decree of the Defense Council of February 15, 1919 — apparently with 
Lenin in the chair — the Cheka and the NKVD were ordered to take hostage peasants from those 
localities where the removal of snow from railroad tracks "was not proceeding satisfactorily," and "if 
the snow removal did not take place they were to be shot." 

[Dekrety Sovetskoi Vlasti (Decrees of the Soviet Regime), Vol. 4, Moscow, 1968, p. 627.] 

(At the end of 1920, by decree of the Council of People's Commissars, permission was given to take 
Social Democrats as hostages too.) 

But even restricting ourselves to ordinary arrests, we can note that by the spring of 1918 a torrent of 
socialist traitors had already begun that was to continue without slackening for many years. All these 
parties — the SR's, the Mensheviks, the Anarchists, the Popular Socialists — had for decades only 
pretended to be revolutionaries; they had worn socialism only as a mask, and for that they went to 
hard labor, still pretending. Only during the violent course of the Revolution was the bourgeois 
essence of these socialist traitors discovered. What could be more natural than to begin arresting 
them! Soon after the outlawing of the Cadets, the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly, the 
disarming of the Preobrazhensky and other regiments, they began in a small way to arrest, quietly at 
first, both SR's and Mensheviks. After June 14, 1918, the day members of these parties were 
excluded from all the Soviets, the arrests proceeded in a more intensive and more coordinated 
fashion. From July 6 on, they began to deal with the Left SR's in the same way, though the Left SR's 
had been cleverer and had gone on pretending longer that they were allies of the one and only 
consistent party of the proletariat. From then on, it was enough for a workers' protest, a disturbance, 
a strike, to occur at any factory or in any little town (and there were many of them in the summer of 
1918; and in March, 1921, they shook Petrograd, Moscow, and then Kronstadt and forced the 
inauguration of the NEP), and — coinciding with concessions, assurances, and the satisfaction for the 
just demands of the workers — the Cheka began silently to pick up Mensheviks and SR's at night as 
being the people truly to blame for these disorders. In the summer of 1918 and in April and October 
of 1919, they jailed Anarchists right and left. In 1919 they arrested all the members of the SR Central 
Committee they could catch — and kept them imprisoned in the Butyrki up to the time of their trial in 
1922. In that same year, Latsis, a leading Chekist, wrote of the Mensheviks: "People of this sort are 
more than a mere hindrance to us. That is why we remove them from our path, so they won't get 
under our feet. . . . We put them away in a secluded, cozy place, in the Butyrki, and we are going to 
keep them there until the struggle between capital and labor comes to an end." In 1919, also, the 
delegates to the Non-Party Workers Congress were arrested; as a result, the Congress never took 
place. 

In 1919, suspicion of our Russians returning from abroad was already having its effect (Why? What 
was their alleged assignment?) — thus the officers of the Russian expeditionary force in France were 
imprisoned on their homecoming. In 1919, too, what with the big hauls in connection with such 
actual and pseudo plots as the "National Center" and the "Military Plot," executions were carried out 
in Moscow, Petrograd, and other cities on the basis of lists — in other words, free people were simply 
arrested and executed immediately, and right and left those elements of the intelligentsia considered 
close to the Cadets were raked into prison. (What does the term "close to the Cadets" mean? Not 
monarchist and not socialist: in other words, all scientific circles, all university circles, all artistic, 
literary, yes, and, of course, all engineering circles. Except for the extremist writers, except for the 
theologians and theoreticians of socialism, all the rest of the intelligentsia, 80 percent of it, was 
"close to the Cadets.") In that category, for example, Lenin placed the writer Korolenko — "a pitiful 



petty bourgeois, imprisoned in bourgeois prejudices." He considered it was "not amiss" for such 
"talents" to spend a few weeks in prison. From Gorky's protests we learn of individual groups that 
were arrested. On September 15, 1919, Lenin replied to him: "It is clear to us that there were some 
mistakes." But: "What a misfortune, just think about it! What injustice!" And he advised Gorky "not 
to waste [his] energy whimpering over rotten intellectuals." 

From January, 1919, on, food requisitioning was organized and food-collecting detachments were set 
up. They encountered resistance everywhere in the rural areas, sometimes stubborn and passive, 
sometimes violent. The suppression of this opposition gave rise to an abundant flood of arrests 
during the course of the next two years, not counting those who were shot on the spot. 

I am deliberately bypassing here the major part of the grinding done by the Cheka, the Special 
Branches, and the Revolutionary Tribunals as the front line advanced and cities and provinces were 
occupied. And that same NKVD directive of August 30, 1918, ordered that efforts be made to ensure 
"the unconditional execution of all who had been involved in White Guard work." But sometimes it 
is not clear where to draw the line. By the summer of 1920, for example, the Civil War had not 
entirely ended everywhere. But it was over on the Don; nonetheless officers were sent from there en 
masse — from Rostov, and from Novocherkassk — to Archangel, whence they were transported to the 
Solovetsky Islands, and, it is said, several of the barges were sunk in the White Sea and in the 
Caspian Sea. Now should this be billed to the Civil War or to the beginning of peacetime 
reconstruction? In Novocherkassk, in the same year, they shot the pregnant wife of an officer 
because she had hidden her husband. In what classification should she be put? 

In May, 1920, came the well-known decree of the Central Committee "on Subversive Activity in the 
Rear." We know from experience that every such decree is a call for a new wave of widespread 
arrests; it is the outward sign of such a wave. 

A particular difficulty — and also a particular advantage — in the organization of all these waves was 
the absence of a criminal code or any system of criminal law whatsoever before. 1922. Only a 
revolutionary sense of justice (always infallible) guided those doing the purging and managing the 
sewage system when they were deciding whom to take and what to do with them. 

In this survey we are not going to investigate the successive waves of habitual criminals (ugolovniki) 
and nonpolitical offenders (bytoviki). Therefore we will merely recall that the country- wide poverty 
and shortages during the period when the government, all institutions, and the laws themselves were 
being reorganized could serve only to increase greatly the number of thefts, robberies, assaults, 
bribes, and the resale of merchandise for excessive profit (speculation). Even though these crimes 
presented less danger to the existence of the Republic, they, too, had to be repressed, and their own 
waves of prisoners served to swell the waves of counterrevolutionaries. And there was speculation, 
too, of a purely political character, as was pointed out in the decree of the Council of People's 
Commissars signed by Lenin on July 22, 1918: "Those guilty of selling, or buying up, or keeping for 
sale in the way of business food products which have been placed under the monopoly of the 
Republic [A peasant keeps grains for sale in the way of business. What else is his business 
anyway?] . . . imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years, combined with the most severe 
forced labor and confiscation of all their property." 

From that summer on, the countryside, which had already been strained to the utmost Umits, gave up 
its harvest year after year without compensation. This led to peasant revolts and, in the upshot, 
suppression of the revolts and new arrests. 

["The hardest- working sector of the nation was positively uprooted." Korolenko, letter to Gorky, 
August 10, 1921.] 

It was in 1920 that we knew (or failed to know) of the trial of the "Siberian Peasants' Union." And at 



the end of 1920 the repression of the Tambov peasants' rebellion began. There was no trial for them. 

But the main drive to uproot people from the Tambov villages took place mostly in June, 1921. 
Throughout the province concentration camps were set up for the families of peasants who had taken 
part in the revolts. Tracts of open field were enclosed with barbed wire strung on posts, and for three 
weeks every family of a suspected rebel was confined there. If within that time the man of the family 
did not turn up to buy his family's way out with his own head, they sent the family into exile. 

[Tukhachevsky, "Borba s Kontrrevolyutsionnymi Vostaniyami" ("The Struggle Against 
Counterrevolutionary Revolts"), in Voina i Revolyutsiya (War and Revolution), 1926, No. 7/8.] 

Even earlier, in March, 1921, the rebellious Kronstadt sailors, minus those who had been shot, were 
sent to the islands of the Archipelago via the Trubetskoi bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress. 

That same year, 1921, began with Cheka Order No. 10, dated January 8: "To intensify the repression 
of the bourgeoisie." Now, when the Civil War had ended, repression was not to be reduced but 
intensified! Voloshin has pictured for us in several of his poems how this worked out in the Crimea. 

In the summer of 1921, the State Commission for Famine Relief, including Kuskova, Prokopovich, 
Kishkin, and others, was arrested. They had tried to combat the unprecedented famine in Russia. The 
heart of the matter, however, was that theirs were the wrong hands to be offering food and could not 
be allowed to feed the starving. The chairman of this commission, the dying Korolenko, who was 
pardoned, called the destruction of the commission "the worst of dirty political tricks, a dirty 
political trick by the government." 

[Korolenko's letter to Gorky, September 14, 1921. Korolenko also reminds us of a particularly 
important situation in the prisons of 1921: "Everywhere they are saturated with typhus." This has 
been confirmed by Skripnikova and others imprisoned at the time.] 

In that same year the practice of arresting students began (for example, the group of Yevgeniya 
Doyarenko in the Timiryazev Academy) for "criticism of the system" (not in public, merely in 
conversation among themselves). Such cases, however, were evidently few, because the group in 
question was interrogated by Menzhinsky and Yagoda personally. 

Also in 1921 the arrests of members of all non-Bolshevik parties were expanded and systematized. 
In fact, all Russia's political parties had been buried, except the victorious one. (Oh, do not dig a 
grave for someone else!) And so that the dissolution of these parties would be irreversible, it was 
necessary that their members should disintegrate and their physical bodies too. 

Not one citizen of the former Russian state who had ever joined a party other than the Bolshevik 
Party could avoid his fate. He was condemned unless, like Maisky or Vyshinsky, he succeeded in 
making his way across the planks of the wreck to the Bolsheviks. He might not be arrested in the 
first group. He might live on, depending on how dangerous he was believed to be, until 1922, 1932, 
or even 1937, but the lists were kept; his turn would and did come; he was arrested or else politely 
invited to an interrogation, where he was asked just one question: Had he been a member of such and 
such, from then till then? (There were also questions about hostile activity, but the first question 
decided everything, as is clear to us now, decades later.) From there on his fate might vary. Some 
were put immediately in one of the famous Tsarist central prisons — fortunately, all the Tsarist 
central prisons had been well preserved — and some socialists even ended up in the very same cells 
and with the very same jailers they had had before. Others were offered the opportunity of going into 
exile — oh, not for long, just for two or three years. And some had it even easier: they were merely 
given a minus (a certain number of cities were forbidden) and told to pick out a new place of 
residence themselves, and for the future would they please be so kind as to stay fixed in that one 
place and await the pleasure of the GPU. 



This whole operation was stretched out over many years because it was of primary importance that it 
be stealthy and unnoticed. It was essential to clean out, conscientiously, socialists of every other 
stripe from Moscow, Petrograd, the ports, the industrial centers, and, later on, the outlying provinces 
as well. This was a grandiose silent game of solitaire, whose rules were totally incomprehensible to 
its contemporaries, and whose outlines we can appreciate only now. Someone's far-seeing mind, 
someone's neat hands, planned it all, without letting one wasted minute go by. They picked up a card 
which had spent three years in one pile and softly placed it on another pile. And the person who had 
been imprisoned in a central prison was thereby shifted into exile — and a good way off. Someone 
who had served out a "minus" sentence was sent into exile, too, but out of sight of the rest of the 
"minus" category, or else from exile to exile, and then back again into the central prison — but this 
time a different one. Patience, overwhelming patience, was the trait of the person playing out the 
solitaire. And without any noise, without any outcry, the members of all the other parties slipped 
gradually out of sight, lost all connection with the places and people where they and their 
revolutionary activities were known, and thus — imperceptibly and mercilessly — was prepared the 
annihilation of those who had once raged against tyranny at student meetings and had clanked their 
Tsarist shackles in pride. 

[V. G. Korolenko wrote to Gorky, June 29, 1921: "History will someday note that the Bolshevik 
Revolution used the same means to deal with true revolutionaries and socalists as did the Tsarist 
regime, in other words, purely police measures."] 

In this game of the Big Solitaire, the majority of the old political prisoners, survivors of hard labor, 
were destroyed, for it was primarily the SR's and the Anarchists — not the Social Democrats — who 
had received the harshest sentences from the Tsarist courts. They in particular had made up the 
population of the Tsarist hard-labor political prisons. 

There was justice in the priorities of destruction, however; in 1920 they were all offered the chance 
to renounce in writing their parties and party ideologies. Some declined — and they, naturally, came 
up first for annihilation. Others signed such renunciations, and thereby added a few years to their 
lifetimes. But their turn, too, came implacably, and their heads rolled implacably from their 
shoulders. 

[Sometimes, reading a newspaper article, one is astonished to the point of disbelief. In hvestiya of 
May 24, 1959, one could read that a year after Hitler came to power Maximilian Hauke was arrested 
for belonging to none other than the Communist Party. Was he destroyed? No, they sentenced him to 
two years. After this was he, naturally, sentenced to a second term? No, he was released. You can 
interpret that as you please! He proceeded to live quietly and build an underground organization, in 
connection with which the hvestiya article on his courage appeared.] 

In the spring of 1922 the Extraordinary Commission for Struggle Against Counterrevolution, 
Sabotage, and Speculation, the Cheka, recently renamed the GPU, decided to intervene in church 
affairs. It was called on to carry out a "church revolution" — to remove the existing leadership and 
replace it with one which would have only one ear turned to heaven and the other to the Lubyanka. 
The so-called "Living Church" people seemed to go along with this plan, but without outside help 
they could not gain control of the church apparatus. For this reason, the Patriarch Tikhon was 
arrested and two resounding trials were held, followed by the execution in Moscow of those who had 
publicized the Patriarch's appeal and, in Petrograd, of the Metropolitan Veniamin, who had 
attempted to hinder the transfer of ecclesiastical power to the "Living Church" group. Here and there 
in the provincial centers and even further down in the administrative districts, metropolitans and 
bishops were arrested, and, as always, in the wake of the big fish, followed shoals of smaller fry: 
archpriests, monks, and deacons. These arrests were not even reported in the press. They also 
arrested those who refused to swear to support the "Living Church" "renewal" movement. 

Men of religion were an inevitable part of every annual "catch," and their silver locks gleamed in 



every cell and in every prisoner transport en route to the Solovetsky Islands. 

From the early twenties on, arrests were also made among groups of theosophists, mystics, 
spiritualists. (Count Palen's group used to keep official transcripts of its communications with the 
spirit world.) Also, religious societies and philosophers of the Berdyayev circle. The so-called 
"Eastern Catholics" — followers of Vladimir Solovyev — were arrested and destroyed in passing, as 
was the group of A. I. Abrikosova. And, of course, ordinary Roman Catholics — Polish Catholic 
priests, etc. — were arrested, too, as part of the normal course of events. 

However, the root destruction of religion in the country, which throughout the twenties and thirties 
was one of the most important goals of the GPU-NKVD, could be realized only by mass arrests of 
Orthodox believers. Monks and nuns, whose black habits had been a distinctive feature of Old 
Russian life, were intensively rounded up on every hand, placed under arrest, and sent into exile. 
They arrested and sentenced active laymen. The circles kept getting bigger, as they raked in ordinary 
believers as well, old people, and particularly women, who were the most stubborn believers of all 
and who, for many long years to come, would be called "nuns" in transit prisons and in camps. 

True, they were supposedly being arrested and tried not for their actual faith but for openly declaring 
their convictions and for bringing up their children in the same spirit. As Tanya Khodkevich wrote: 

You can pray freely 
But just so God alone can hear. 

(She received a ten-year sentence for these verses.) 

A person convinced that he possessed spiritual truth was required to conceal it from his own 
children! In the twenties the religious education of children was classified as a political crime under 
Article 58-10 of the Code — in other words, counterrevolutionary propaganda! 

True, one was still permitted to renounce one's religion at one's trial: it didn't often happen but it 
nonetheless did happen that the father would renounce his religion and remain at home to raise the 
children while the mother went to the Solovetsky Islands. (Throughout all those years women 
manifested great firmness in their faith.) All persons convicted of religious activity received tenners, 
the longest term then given. 

(In those years, particularly in 1927, in purging the big cities for the pure society that was coming 
into being, they sent prostitutes to the Solovetsky Islands along with the "nuns." Those lovers of a 
sinful earthly life were given three-yQM sentences under a more lenient article of the Code. The 
conditions in prisoner transports, in transit prisons, and on the Solovetsky Islands were not of a sort 
to hinder them from plying their merry trade among the administrators and the convoy guards. And 
three years later they would return with laden suitcases to the places they had come from. Religious 
prisoners, however, were prohibited from ever returning to their children and their home areas.) 

As early as the early twenties, waves appeared that were purely national in character — at first not 
very large in proportion to the populations of their homelands, especially by Russian yardsticks: 
Mussavatists from Azerbaijan; Dashnaks from Armenia; Georgian Mensheviks; and Turkmenian 
Basmachi, who were resisting the establishment of Soviet power in Central Asia. (The first Central 
Asian Soviets were Russian in makeup by an overwhelming majority, and were therefore seen as 
outposts of Russian power.) In 1926 the Zionist society of "Hehalutz" was exiled in toto — since it 
had failed to respond to the all-powerful upsurge of internationalism. 

Among subsequent generations, a picture has evolved of the twenties as some kind of holiday of 
totally unlimited freedom. In this book we shall encounter people who viewed the twenties quite 
differently. The non-Party students at this time sought "autonomy for higher educational 



institutions," the right of assembly, and the removal from the curriculum of excessive political 
indoctrination. Arrests were the answer. These were intensified during holidays — for example, on 
May 1, 1924. In 1925, about one hundred Leningrad students were sentenced to three years in 
political detention for reading the Sotsialistichesky Vestnik — the organ of the Mensheviks abroad — 
and for studying Plekhanov. (In his youth Plekhanov himself had gotten off far more lightly for 
speaking out against the government in front of Kazan Cathedral.) In 1925 they had already begun to 
arrest the first (young) Trotskyites. (Two naive Red Army men, remembering the Russian tradition, 
began to collect funds for the arrested Trotskyites — and they, too, were put in political detention.) 

And, of course, it is obvious that the exploiting classes were not spared. Throughout the twenties the 
hunt continued for former officers who had managed to survive: "Whites" (those who had not 
already earned execution during the Civil War); "White-Reds," who had fought on both sides; and 
"Tsarist Reds," Tsarist officers who had gone over to the Red Army but had not served in it for the 
whole period or who had gaps in their army service records and no documents to account for them. 
They were truly put through the mill because instead of being sentenced immediately they, too, were 
put through the solitaire game: endless verifications, limitations on the kind of work they could do 
and on where they could live; they were taken into custody, released, taken into custody again. And 
only gradually did they proceed to the camps, from which they did not return. 

However, sending these officers to the Archipelago did not end the problem but only set it in motion. 
After all, their mothers, wives, and children were still at liberty. With the help of unerring social 
analysis it was easy to see what kind of mood they were in after the heads of their households had 
been arrested. And thus they simply compelled their own arrest too! And one more wave was set 
rolUng. 

In the twenties there was an amnesty for Cossacks who had taken part in the Civil War. Many of 
them returned from the island of Lemnos to the Kuban, where they were given land. All of them 
were subsequently arrested. 

And, of course, all former state officials had gone into hiding and were likewise Uable to be hunted 
down. They had hidden well and disguised themselves cleverly, making use of the fact that there was 
as yet no internal passport system nor any unified system of work-books in the Republic — and they 
managed to creep into Soviet institutions. In such cases, slips of the tongue, chance recognitions, and 
the denunciations of neighbors helped battle intelligence — so to speak. 

(Sometimes sheer accident took a hand. Solely out of a love of order, a certain Mova kept at home a 
list of all former employees of the provincial judiciary. This was discovered by accident in 1925, and 
they were all arrested and shot.) 

And so the waves rolled on — for "concealment of social origin" and for "former social origin." This 
received the widest interpretation. They arrested members of the nobility for their social origin. They 
arrested members of their families. Finally, unable to draw even simple distinctions, they arrested 
members of the "individual nobility" — i.e., anybody who had simply graduated from a university. 
And once they had been arrested, there was no way back. You can't undo what has been done! The 
Sentinel of the Revolution never makes a mistake! 

(No. There were a few ways back! The counterwaves were thin, sparse, but they did sometimes 
break through. The first is worthy of mention right here. Among the wives and daughters of the 
nobility and the officers there were quite often women of outstanding personal qualities and 
attractive appearance. Some succeeded in breaking through in a small reverse wave! They were the 
ones who remembered that life is given to us only once and that nothing is more precious to us than 
our own life. They offered their services to the Cheka-GPU as informers, as colleagues, in any 
capacity whatsoever — and those who were liked were accepted. These were the most fertile of all 
informers! They helped the GPU a great deal, because "former" people trusted them. Here one can 



name the last Princess Vyazemskaya, a most prominent postrevolutionary informer [as was lier son 
on the Solovetsky Islands]. And Konkordiya Nikolayevna losse was evidently a woman of brilliant 
qualities: her husband was an officer who had been shot in her presence, and she herself was exiled 
to the Solovetsky Islands. But she managed to beg her way out and to set up a salon near the Big 
Lubyanka which the important figures of that establishment loved to frequent. She was not arrested 
again until 1937, along with her Yagoda customers.) 

It is strange to recount, but as a result of an absurd tradition the Political Red Cross had been 
preserved from Old Russia. 

There were three branches: the Moscow branch (Y. Peshkova-Vinaver); the Kharkov 
(Sandormirskaya); and the Petrograd. The one in Moscow behaved itself and was not dissolved until 
1937. The one in Petrograd (the old Narodnik Shevtsov, the cripple Gartman, and Kocherovsky) 
adopted an intolerably impudent stance, mixed into political cases, tried to get support from such 
former inmates of the Schliisselburg Prison as Novorussky, who had been convicted in the same case 
as Lenin's brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, and helped not only socialists but also KR's — Counter- 
Re volutionaries. In 1926 it was shut down and its leaders were sent into exile. 

The years go by, and everything that has not been freshly recalled to us is wiped from our memory. 
In the dim distance, we see the year 1927 as a careless, well-fed year of the still untruncated NEP. 
But in fact it was tense; it shuddered as newspaper headlines exploded; and it was considered at the 
time, and portrayed to us then, as the threshold of a war for world revolution. The assassination of 
the Soviet ambassador in Warsaw, which filled whole columns of the papers that June, aroused 
Mayakovsky to dedicate four thunderous verses to the subject. 

But here's bad luck for you: Poland offered an apology; Voikov's lone assassin was arrested there — 
and so how and against whom was the poet's appeal to be directed? 

[Evidently, the monarchist in question assassinated Voikov as an act of private vengeance: it is said 
that as Urals Provincial Commissar of Foodstuffs, in July, 1918, P. L. Voikov had directed the 
destruction of all traces of the shooting of the Tsar's family (the dissection and dismemberment of 
the corpses, the cremation of the remains, and the dispersal of the ashes).] 

With cohesion, 

construction, 

grit, 

and repression 

Wring the neck 

of this gang run riot! 

Who was to be repressed? Whose neck should be wrung? It was then that the so-called Voikov draft 
began. As always happened when there were incidents of disturbance or tension, they arrested 
former people: Anarchists, SR's, Mensheviks, and also the intelligentsia as such. Indeed, who else 
was there to arrest in the cities? Not the working class! 

But the old "close-to-the-Cadets" intelligentsia had already been thoroughly shaken up, starting in 
1919. Had the time not come to shake up that part of the intelligentsia which imagined itself to be 
progressive? To give the students a once-over? Once again Mayakovsky came to the rescue: 

Think 

about the Komsomol 
for days and for weeks! 
Look over 
your ranks. 



watch them with care. 
Are all of them 
really 

Komsomols? 
Or are they 

only 

pretending to be? 

A convenient world outlook gives rise to a convenient juridical term: social prophylaxis . It was 
introduced and accepted, and it was immediately understood by all. (Lazar Kogan, one of the bosses 
of the White Sea Canal construction, would, in fact, soon say: "I believe that you personally were not 
guilty of anything. But, as an educated person, you have to understand that social prophylaxis was 
being widely applied!") And when else, in fact, should unreliable fellow travelers, all that shaky 
intellectual rot, be arrested, if not on the eve of the war for world revolution? When the big war 
actually began, it would be too late. 

And so in Moscow they began a systematic search, block by block. Someone had to be arrested 
everywhere. The slogan was: "We are going to bang our fist on the table so hard that the world will 
shake with terror!" It was to the Lubyanka, to the Butyrki, that the Black Marias, the passenger cars, 
the enclosed trucks, the open hansom cabs kept moving, even by day. There was a jam at the gates, a 
jam in the courtyard. They didn't have time to unload and register those they'd arrested. (And the 
same situation existed in other cities. In Rostov-on-the-Don during those days the floor was so 
crowded in the cellar of House 33 that the newly arrived Boiko could hardly find a place to sit 
down.) 

A typical example from this wave: Several dozen young people got together for some kind of 
musical evening which had not been authorized ahead of time by the GPU. They listened to music 
and then drank tea. They got the money for the tea by voluntarily contributing their own kopecks. It 
was quite clear, of course, that this music was a cover for counterrevolutionary sentiments, and that 
the money was being collected not for tea but to assist the dying world bourgeoisie. And they were 
all arrested and given from three to ten years — Anna Skripnikova getting five, while Ivan 
Nikolayevich Varentsov and the other organizers of the affair who refused to confess were shot! 

And in that same year, somewhere in Paris, a group of Russian emigre Lycee graduates gathered to 
celebrate the traditional Pushkin holiday. A report of this was published in the papers. It was clearly 
an intrigue on the part of mortally wounded imperialism, and as a result all Lycee graduates still left 
in the U.S.S.R. were arrested, as were the so-called "law students" (graduates of another such 
privileged special school of prerevolutionary Russia). 

Only the size of SLON — the Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp — limited for the time being the scale 
of the Voikov draft. But the Gulag Archipelago had already begun its malignant life and would 
shortly metastasize throughout the whole body of the nation. 

A new taste had been acquired and a new appetite began to grow. The time had long since arrived to 
crush the technical intelligentsia, which had come to regard itself as too irreplaceable and had not 
gotten used to catching instructions on the wing. 

In other words, we never did trust the engineers — and from the very first years of the Revolution we 
saw to it that those lackeys and servants of former capitalist bosses were kept in line by healthy 
suspicion and surveillance by the workers. However, during the reconstruction period, we did permit 
them to work in our industries, while the whole force of the class assault was directed against the rest 
of the intelligentsia. But the more our own economic leadership matured — in VSNKh (the Supreme 
Council of the Economy) and Gosplan (the State Planning Commission) — the more the number of 
plans increased, and the more those plans overlapped and conflicted with one another, the clearer 



became the old engineers' basic commitment to wrecking, their insincerity, slyness, venality. The 
Sentinel of the Revolution narrowed its eyes with even greater vigilance — and wherever it directed 
its narrowed gaze it immediately discovered a nest of wreckers. 

This therapy continued full speed from 1927 on, and immediately exposed to the proletariat all the 
causes of our economic failures and shortages. There was wrecking in the People's Commissariat of 
Railroads — that was why it was hard to get aboard a train, why there were interruptions in supplies. 
There was wrecking in the Moscow Electric Power System — and interruptions in power. There was 
wrecking in the oil industry — hence the shortage of kerosene. There was wrecking in textiles — hence 
nothing for a workingman to wear. In the coal industry there was colossal wrecking — hence no heat! 
In the metallurgy, defense, machinery, shipbuilding, chemical, mining, gold and platinum industries, 
in irrigation, everywhere there were these pus-filled boils of wrecking! Enemies with slide rules 
were on all sides. The GPU puffed and panted in its efforts to grab off and drag off the "wreckers." 
In the capitals and in the provinces, GPU coUegiums and proletarian courts kept hard at work, sifting 
through this viscous sewage, and every day the workers gasped to learn (and sometimes they didn't 
learn) from the papers of new vile deeds. They learned about Palchinsky, von Meek, and Velichko, 
and how many others who were nameless. 

[ A. F. Velichko, a military engineer, former professor of the Military Academy of the General Staff, 
and a lieutenant general, had been in charge of the Administration for Military Transport in the 
Tsarist War Ministry. He was shot. Oh, how useful he would have been in 1941 !] 

Every industry, every factory, and every handicraft artel had to find wreckers in its ranks, and no 
sooner had they begun to look than they found them (with the help of the GPU). If any 
prerevolutionary engineer was not yet exposed as a traitor, then he could certainly be suspected of 
being one. 

And what accomplished villains these old engineers were! What diabolical ways to sabotage they 
found! Nikolai Karlovich von Meek, of the People's Commissariat of Railroads, pretended to be 
terribly devoted to the development of the new economy, and would hold forth for hours on end 
about the economic problems involved in the construction of socialism, and he loved to give advice. 
One such pernicious piece of advice was to increase the size of freight trains and not worry about 
heavier than average loads. The GPU exposed von Meek, and he was shot: his objective had been to 
wear out rails and roadbeds, freight cars and locomotives, so as to leave the Republic without 
railroads in case of foreign military intervention! When, not long afterward, the new People's 
Commissar of Railroads, Comrade Kaganovich, ordered that average loads should be increased, and 
even doubled and tripled them (and for this discovery received the Order of Lenin along with others 
of our leaders) — the malicious engineers who protested became known as limiters. They raised the 
outcry that this was too much, and would result in the breakdown of the rolling stock, and they were 
rightly shot for their lack of faith in the possibilities of socialist transport. 

These limiters were pursued for several years. In all branches of the economy they brandished their 
formulas and calculations and refused to understand that bridges and lathes could respond to the 
enthusiasm of the personnel. (These were the years when all the norms of folk psychology were 
turned inside out: the circumspect folk wisdom expressed in such a proverb as "Haste makes waste" 
was ridiculed, and the ancient saying that "The slower you go, the farther you'll get" was turned 
inside out.) The only thing which at times delayed the arrest of the old engineers was the absence of 
a new batch to take their place. Nikolai Ivanovich Ladyzhensky, chief engineer of defense plants in 
Izhevsk, was first arrested for "limitation theories" and "blind faith in safety factors" (which 
explained why he considered inadequate the funds allocated by Ordzhonikidze for factory 
expansion). 

[They say that when Ordzhonikidze used to talk with the old engineers, he would put one pistol on 
his desk beside his right hand and another beside his left.] 



Then they put him under house arrest and ordered him back to work in his old job. Without him the 
work was collapsing. He put it back in shape. But the funds allocated were just as inadequate as they 
had been earlier, and so once again he was thrown in prison, this time for "incorrect use of funds": 
the funds were insufficient, they charged, because the chief engineer had used them inefficiently! 
Ladyzhensky died in camp after a year of timbering. 

Thus in the course of a few years they broke the back of the Old Russian engineers who had 
constituted the glory of the country, who were the beloved heroes of such writers as Garin- 
Mikhailovsky, Chekhov, and Zamyatin. 

It is to be understood, of course, that in this wave, as in all of them, other people were taken too: for 
example, those who had been near and dear to and connected with those doomed. I hesitate to sully 
the shining bronze countenance of the Sentinel of the Revolution, yet I must: they also arrested 
persons who refused to become informers. We would ask the reader to keep in mind at all times, but 
especially in connection with the first postrevolutionary decade, this entirely secret wave, which 
never surfaced in public: at that time people still had their pride, and many of them quite failed to 
comprehend that morality is a relative thing, having only a narrow class meaning, and they dared to 
reject the employment offered them, and they were all punished without mercy. In fact, at this time 
young Magdalena Edzhubova was supposed to act as an informer on a group of engineers, and she 
not only dared to refuse but also told her guardian (it was against him she was supposed to inform). 
However, he was arrested soon anyway, and in the course of the investigation he confessed 
everything. Edzhubova, who was pregnant, was arrested for "revealing an operational secret" and 
was sentenced to be shot — but subsequently managed to get off with a twenty-five-year string of 
sentences. In that same year, 1927, though in a completely different milieu, among the leading 
Kharkov Communists, Nadezhda Vitalyevna Surovets refused to become an informer and spy on 
members of the Ukrainian government. For this she was arrested by the GPU, and not until a quarter 
of a century later did she manage to emerge, barely alive, in the Kolyma. As for those who didn't 
survive — of them we know nothing. 

(In the thirties this wave of the disobedient fell off to zero: if they asked you to, then it meant you 
had to inform — where would you hide? "The weakest go to the wall." "If I don't, someone else will." 
"Better me than someone bad." Meanwhile there were plenty of volunteers; you couldn't get away 
from them: it was both profitable and praiseworthy.) 

In 1928 in Moscow the big Shakhty case came to trial — big in terms of the publicity it was given, in 
the startling confessions and self-flagellation of the defendants (though not yet all of them). Two 
years later, in September, 1930, the famine organizers were tried with a great hue and cry. (They 
were the ones! There they are!) There were forty-eight wreckers in the food industry. At the end of 
1930, the trial of the Promparty was put on with even greater fanfare. It had been faultlessly 
rehearsed. In this case every single defendant took upon himself the blame for every kind of filthy 
rubbish — and then, like a monument unveiled, there arose before the eyes of the workers the 
grandiose, cunningly contrived skein in which all the separate wrecking cases previously exposed 
were tied into one diabolical knot along with Milyukov, Ryabushinsky, Deterding, and Poincare. 

As we begin to understand our judicial practices, we realize now that the public trials were only the 
surface indications of the mole's tunnel, and that all the main digging lay beneath the surface. At 
these trials only a small number of those arrested were produced in court — only those who agreed to 
the unnatural practice of accusing themselves and others in the hope of getting off more easily. The 
majority of the engineers, who had the courage and intelligence to reject and refute the interrogators' 
stupidities, were tried out of earshot. But even though they did not confess, they got the same tenners 
from the Collegium of the GPU. 

The waves flowed underground through the pipes; they provided sewage disposal for the life 
flowering on the surface. 



It was precisely at this moment that an important step was taken toward universal participation in 
sewage disposal, universal distribution of responsibility for it. Those who had not yet been swept 
bodily down the sewer hatches, who had not yet been carried through the pipes to the Archipelago, 
had to march up above, carrying banners praising the trials, and rejoicing at the judicial reprisals. 
(And this was very farsighted! Decades would pass, and history would have its eyes opened, but the 
interrogators, judges, and prosecutors would turn out to be no more guilty than you and I, fellow 
citizens! The reason we possess our worthy gray heads is that in our time we worthily voted "for. ") 

Stalin carried out the first such effort in connection with the trial of the famine organizers — and how 
could it not succeed when everyone was starving in bounteous Russia, and everyone was always 
looking about and asking: "Where did all our dear bread get to?" Therefore, before the court verdict, 
the workers and employees wrathfuUy voted for the death penalty for the scoundrels on trial. And by 
the time of the Promparty trial, there were universal meetings and demonstrations (including even 
school-children). It was the newspaper march of milUons, and the roar rose outside the windows of 
the courtroom: "Death! Death! Death!" 

At this turning point in our history, there were some lonely voices of protest or abstention — and 
very, very great bravery was required to say "No!" in the midst of that roaring chorus of approval. It 
is incomparably easier today! (Yet even today people don't very often vote "against") To the extent 
that we know about them, it was those same spineless, slushy intellectuals. At the meeting of the 
Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, Professor Dmitri ApoUinaryevich Rozhansky abstained (he was an 
enemy of capital punishment in general, you see; in the language of science, you see, this was an 
irreversible process), and he was arrested then and there! The student Dima Olitsky abstained and 
was arrested then and there! Thus all these protests were silenced at the very source. 

So far as we know, the gray-mustached working class approved these executions. So far as we know, 
from the blazing Komsomols right up to the Party leaders and the legendary army commanders, the 
entire vanguard waxed unanimous in approving these executions. Famous revolutionaries, 
theoreticians, and prophets, seven years before their own inglorious destruction, welcomed the roar 
of the crowd, not guessing then that their own time stood on the threshold, that soon their own names 
would be dragged down in that roar of "Scum!" "Filth!" 

In fact, for the engineers the rout soon came to an end. At the beginning of 1931 losif Vissarionovich 
spake his "Six Conditions" for construction. And His Autocracy vouchsafed as the fifth condition: 
We must move from a policy of destruction of the old technical intelligentsia to a policy of concern 
for it, of making use of it. 

Concern for it! What had happened in the meantime to our just wrath? Where had all our terrible 
accusations gone to? At this very moment, as it happened, a trial of "wreckers" in the porcelain 
industry was under way (they had been playing their filthy tricks even there!). All the defendants had 
damned each other in unison and confessed to everything — and suddenly they cried out in unison 
again: "We are innocent!" And they were freed! 

(There was even a small reverse wave to be remarked in this particular year: some engineers who 
had already been sentenced or put under interrogation were released. Thus D. A. Rozhansky came 
back. Should we not say he had won his duel with Stalin? And that if people had been heroic in 
exercising their civil responsibilities, there would never have been any reason to write either this 
chapter or this whole book?) 

That same year Stalin was still engaged in grinding beneath his hoof the long-since prostrate 
Mensheviks. (There was a public trial in March, 1931, of the "AU-Union Bureau of Mensheviks," 
Groman, Sukhanov, and Yakubovich, and a certain number of small, scattered, unannounced arrests 
took place in addition.) 



[The Sukhanov referred to here was the same Sukhanov in whose apartment, on the Karpovka, in 
Petrograd, and with whose knowledge (and the guides there nowadays are lying when they say it was 
without his knowledge), the Bolshevik Central Committee met on October 10, 1917, and adopted its 
decision to launch an armed uprising.] 

And suddenly Stalin "reconsidered." 

The White Sea folk say of the tide, the water reconsiders, meaning the moment just before it begins 
to fall. Well, of course, it is inappropriate to compare the murky soul of Stalin with the water of the 
White Sea. And perhaps he didn't reconsider anything whatever. Nor was there any ebb tide. But one 
more miracle happened that year. In 1931, following the trial of the Promparty, a grandiose trial of 
the Working Peasants Party was being prepared — on the grounds that they existed (never, in actual 
fact!) as an enormous organized underground force among the rural intelligentsia, including leaders 
of consumer and agricultural cooperatives and the more advanced upper layer of the peasantry, and 
supposedly were preparing to overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the trial of the 
Promparty this Working Peasants Party — the TKP — was referred to as if it were already well known 
and under detention. The interrogation apparatus of the GPU was working flawlessly: thousands of 
defendants had already fully confessed their adherence to the TKP and participation in its criminal 
plans. And no less than two hundred thousand "members" altogether were promised by the GPU. 
Mentioned as "heading" the party were the agricultural economist Aleksandr Vasilyevich Chayanov; 
the future "Prime Minister" N. D. Kondratyev; L. N. Yurovsky; Makarov; and Aleksei Doyarenko, a 
professor from the Timiryazev Academy (future Minister of Agriculture). 

[He might well have been a better one than those who held the job for the next forty years! But how 

strange is human fate! As a matter of principle, Doyarenko was always nonpolitical! When his 
daughter used to bring home fellow students who expressed opinions savoring of Socialist 
Revolutionary views, he made them leave!] 

Then all of a sudden, one lovely night, Stalin reconsidered. Why? Maybe we will never know. Did 
he perhaps wish to save his soul? Too soon for that, it would seem. Did his sense of humor come to 
the fore — was it all so deadly, monotonous, so bitter-tasting? But no one would ever dare accuse 
Stalin of having a sense of humor! Likeliest of all, Stalin simply figured out that the whole 
countryside, not just 200,000 people, would soon die of famine anyway, so why go to the trouble? 
And instantly the whole TKP trial was called off. All those who had "confessed" were told they 
could repudiate their confessions (one can picture their happiness!). And instead of the whole big 
catch, only the small group of Kondratyev and Chayanov was hauled in and tried. 

[Kondratyev, sentenced to solitary confinement, became mentally ill there and died. Yurovsky also 
died. Chayanov was exiled to Alma-Ata after five years in solitary and was arrested again there in 
1948.] 

(In 1941, the charge against the tortured Vavilov was that the TKP had existed and he had been its 
head.) 

Paragraph piles on paragraph, year on year — and yet there is no way we can describe in sequence 
everything that took place (but the GPU did its job effectively! The GPU never let anything get by!). 
But we must always remember that: 

• Religious believers, of course, were being arrested uninterruptedly. (There were, nonetheless, 
certain special dates and peak periods. There was a "night of struggle against religion" in Leningrad 
on Christmas Eve, 1929, when they arrested a large part of the religious intelligentsia and held 
them — not just until morning either. And that was certainly no "Christmas tale." 

Then in February, 1932, again in Leningrad, many churches were closed simultaneously, while, at 



the same time, large-scale arrests were made among the clergy. And there are still more dates and 
places, but they haven't been reported to us by anyone.) 

• Non-Orthodox sects were also under constant attack, even those sympathetic to Communism. 
(Thus, in 1929, they arrested every last member of the communes between Sochi and Khosta. These 
communes ran everything — both production and distribution — on a Communist basis, and it was all 
done fairly and honestly, in a way the rest of the country won't achieve in a hundred years. But, alas, 
they were too literate; they were well read in religious literature; and atheism was not their 
philosophy, which combined Baptist and Tolstoyan beliefs with those of Yoga. It appeared that such 
a commune was criminal and that it could not bring people happiness.) 

In the twenties, a large group of Tolstoyans was exiled to the foothills of the Altai and there they 
established communal settlements jointly with the Baptists. When the construction of the Kuznetsk 
industrial complex began, they supplied it with food products. Then arrests began — first the teachers 
(they were not teaching in accordance with the government programs), and the children ran after the 
cars, shouting. And after that the commune leaders were taken. 

• The Big Solitaire game played with the socialists went on and on uninterruptedly — of course. 

• In 1929, also, those historians who had not been sent abroad in time were arrested: Platonov, Tarle, 
Lyubavsky, Gotye, Likhachev, Izmailov, and the outstanding literary scholar M. M. Bakhtin. 

• From one end of the country to the other, nationalities kept pouring in. The Yakuts were 
imprisoned after the revolt of 1928. The Buryat-Mongols were imprisoned after the uprising of 
1929 — and they say about 35,000 were shot, a figure it has been impossible to verify. The Kazakhs 
were imprisoned after Budenny's cavalry heroically crushed their revolt in 1930 and 1931. The 
Union for Liberation of the Ukraine was put on trial at the beginning of 1930 (Professor Yefremov, 
Chekhovsky, Nikovsky, etc.), and, knowing the ratio in our country of what is public to what is 
secret, how many others followed in their footsteps? How many were secretly arrested? 

Then came the time — slowly, it is true, but surely — when it was the turn of the members of the 
ruling Party to do time in prison! At first — from 1927 to 1929 — it was a question of the "workers' 
opposition," in other words, the Trotskyites, who had chosen themselves such an unsuccessful 
leader. They numbered hundreds at the start; soon there would be thousands. But it's the first step 
that's the hardest! Just as these Trotskyites had observed with approval the arrest of members of 
other parties, so the rest of the Party now watched approvingly as the Trotskyites were arrested. But 
everyone would have his turn. The nonexistent "rightist opposition" would come later, and, limb by 
Umb, beginning with its own tail, the ravenous maw would devour itself . . . right up to its head. 

From 1928 on, it was time to call to a reckoning those late stragglers after the bourgeoisie — the 
NEPmen. The usual practice was to impose on them ever-increasing and finally totally intolerable 
taxes. At a certain point they could no longer pay; they were immediately arrested for bankruptcy, 
and their property was confiscated. (Small tradesmen such as barbers, tailors, even those who 
repaired primus stoves, were only deprived of their licenses to ply their trade.) 

There was an economic purpose to the development of the NEPmen wave. The state needed property 
and gold, and there was as yet no Kolyma. The famous gold fever began at the end of 1929, only the 
fever gripped not those looking for gold but those from whom it was being shaken loose. The 
particular feature of this new, "gold" wave was that the GPU was not actually accusing these rabbits 
of anything, and was perfectly willing not to send them off to Gulag country, but wished only to take 
away their gold by main force. So the prisons were packed, the interrogators were worn to a frazzle, 
but the transit prisons, prisoner transports, and camps received only relatively minor reinforcements. 

Who was arrested in the "gold" wave? All those who, at one time or another, fifteen years before. 



had had a private "business," had been involved in retail trade, had earned wages at a craft, and could 
have, according to the GPU's deductions, hoarded gold. 

But it so happened that they often had no gold. They had put their money into real estate or 
securities, which had melted away or been taken away in the Revolution, and nothing remained. 
They had high hopes, of course, in arresting dental technicians, jewelers, and watch repairmen. 
Through denunciations, one could learn about gold in the most unexpected places: a veteran lathe 
worker had somewhere gotten hold of, and held on to, sixty gold five-ruble pieces from Tsarist 
times. The famous Siberian partisan Muravyev had come to Odessa, bringing with him a small bag 
full of gold. The Petersburg Tatar draymen all had gold hidden away. Whether or not these things 
were so could be discovered only inside prison walls. Nothing — neither proletarian origin nor 
revolutionary services — served as a defense against a gold denunciation. All were arrested, all were 
crammed into GPU cells in numbers no one had considered possible up to then — but that was all to 
the good: they would cough it up all the sooner! It even reached a point of such confusion that men 
and women were imprisoned in the same cells and used the latrine bucket in each other's presence — 
who cared about those niceties? Give up your gold, vipers! The interrogators did not write up charge 
sheets because no one needed their papers. And whether or not a sentence would be pasted on was of 
very little interest. Only one thing was important: Give up your gold, viper! The state needs gold and 
you don't. The interrogators had neither voice nor strength left to threaten and torture; they had one 
universal method: feed the prisoners nothing but salty food and give them no water. 

Whoever coughed up gold got water! One gold piece for a cup of fresh water! 

People perish for cold metal. 

This wave was distinguished from those that preceded and followed it because, even though fewer 
than half its victims held their fate in their own hands, some did. If you in fact had no gold, then your 
situation was hopeless. You would be beaten, burned, tortured, and steamed to the point of death or 
until they finally came to believe you. But if you had gold, you could determine the extent of your 
torture, the limits of your endurance, and your own fate. Psychologically, this situation was, 
incidentally, not easier but more difficult, because if you made an error you would always be ridden 
by a guilty conscience. Of course, anyone who had already mastered the rules of the institution 
would yield and give up his gold — that was easier. But it was a mistake to give it up too readily. 
They would refuse to believe you had coughed it all up, and they would continue to hold you. But 
you'd be wrong, too, to wait too long before yielding: you'd end up kicking the bucket or they'd paste 
a term on you out of meanness. One of the Tatar draymen endured all the tortures: he had no gold! 
They imprisoned his wife, too, and tortured her, but the Tatar stuck to his story: no gold! Then they 
arrested his daughter: the Tatar couldn't take it any more. He coughed up 100,000 rubles. At this 
point they let his family go, but slapped a prison term on him. The crudest detective stories and 
operas about brigands were played out in real life on a vast national scale. 

The introduction of the passport system on the threshold of the thirties also provided the camps with 
a good-sized draft of reinforcements. Just as Peter I simplified the social structure, sweeping clean 
all the nooks and crannies of the old Russian class system, so our socialist passport system swept 
out, in particular, the betwixt-and-between insects. It hit at the clever, homeless portion of the 
population which wasn't tied down to anything. In the early stages, people made many mistakes with 
those passports — and those not registered at their places of residence, and those not registered as 
having left their former places of residence, were raked into the Archipelago, if only for a single 
year. 

And so the waves foamed and rolled. But over them all, in 1929-1930, billowed and gushed the 
multimillion wave of dispossessed kulaks. It was immeasurably large and it could certainly not have 
been housed in even the highly developed network of Soviet interrogation prisons (which in any case 
were packed full by the "gold" wave). Instead, it bypassed the prisons, going directly to the transit 



prisons and camps, onto prisoner transports, into the Gulag country. In sheer size this nonrecurring 
tidal wave (it was an ocean) swelled beyond the bounds of anything the penal system of even an 
immense state can permit itself. There was nothing to be compared with it in all Russian history. It 
was the forced resettlement of a whole people, an ethnic catastrophe. But yet so cleverly were the 
channels of the GPU-Gulag organized that the cities would have noticed nothing had they not been 
stricken by a strange three-year famine — a famine that came about without drought and without war. 

This wave was also distinct from all those which preceded it because no one fussed about with 
taking the head of the family first and then working out what to do with the rest of the family. On the 
contrary, in this wave they burned out whole nests, whole families, from the start; and they watched 
jealously to be sure that none of the children — fourteen, ten, even six years old — got away: to the 
last scrapings, all had to go down the same road, to the same common destruction. (This was the first 
such experiment — at least in modern history. It was subsequently repeated by Hitler with the Jews, 
and again by Stalin with nationalities which were disloyal to him or suspected by him.) 

This wave included only pathetically few of those kulaks for whom it was named, in order to draw 

the wool over people's eyes. In Russian a kulak is a miserly, dishonest rural trader who grows rich 
not by his own labor but through someone else's, through usury and operating as a middleman. In 
every locality even before the Revolution such kulaks could be numbered on one's fingers. And the 
Revolution totally destroyed their basis of activity. Subsequently, after 1917, by a transfer of 
meaning, the name kulakhegan to be applied (in official and propaganda literature, whence it moved 
into general usage) to all those who in any way hired workers, even if it was only when they were 
temporarily short of working hands in their own families. But we must keep in mind that after the 
Revolution it was impossible to pay less than a fair wage for all such labor — the Committees of the 
Poor and the village Soviets looked after the interests of landless laborers. Just let somebody try to 
swindle a landless laborer! To this very day, in fact, the hiring of labor at a fair wage is permitted in 
the Soviet Union. 

But the inflation of this scathing term kulak proceeded relentlessly, and by 1930 all strong peasants 
in general were being so called — all peasants strong in management, strong in work, or even strong 
merely in convictions. The term kulak was used to smash the strength of the peasantry. Let us 
remember, let us open our eyes: only a dozen years had passed since the great Decree on the Land — 
that very decree without which the peasants would have refused to follow the Bolsheviks and 
without which the October Revolution would have failed. The land was allocated in accordance with 
the number of "mouths" per family, equally. It had been only nine years since the men of the 
peasantry had returned from the Red Army and rushed onto the land they had wrested for 
themselves. Then suddenly there were kulaks and there were poor peasants. How could that be? 
Sometimes it was the result of differences in initial stock and equipment; sometimes it may have 
resulted from luck in the mixture of the family. But wasn't it most often a matter of hard work and 
persistence? And now these peasants, whose breadgrain had fed Russia in 1928, were hastily 
uprooted by local good-for-nothings and city people sent in from outside. Like raging beasts, 
abandoning every concept of "humanity," abandoning all humane principles which had evolved 
through the millennia, they began to round up the very best farmers and their families, and to drive 
them, stripped of their possessions, naked, into the northern wastes, into the tundra and the taiga. 

Such a mass movement could not help but develop subsequent ramifications. It became necessary to 
rid the villages also of those peasants who had merely manifested an aversion to joining the 
collective farms, or an absence of inclination for the collective life, which they had never seen with 
their own eyes, about which they knew nothing, and which they suspected (we now know how well 
founded their suspicions were) would mean a life of forced labor and famine under the leadership of 
loafers. Then it was also necessary to get rid of those peasants, some of them not at all prosperous, 
who, because of their daring, their physical strength, their determination, their outspokenness at 
meetings, and their love of justice, were favorites with their fellow villagers and by virtue of their 
independence were therefore dangerous to the leadership of the collective farm. 



[This kind of peasant and his fate were portrayed immortally in the character of Stepan Chausov in 
S. Zalygin's novel.] 

Beyond this, in every village there were people who in one way or another had personally gotten in 
the way of the local activists. This was the perfect time to settle accounts with them of jealousy, 
envy, insult. A new word was needed for all these new victims as a class — and it was born. By this 
time it had no "social" or "economic" content whatsoever, but it had a marvelous sound: 
podkulachnik — "a person aiding the kulaks. " In other words, I consider you an accomplice of the 
enemy. And that finishes you! The most tattered landless laborer in the countryside could quite 
easily be labeled a podkulachnik. 

[ I remember very well that in our youth this term seemed quite logical; there was nothing in the 
least unclear about it.] 

And so it was that these two terms embraced everything that constituted the essence of the village, its 
energy, its keenness of wit, its love of hard work, its resistance, and its conscience. They were torn 
up by the roots — and collectivization was accomplished. 

But new waves rolled from the collectivized villages: one of them was a wave of agricultural 
wreckers. Everywhere they began to discover wrecker agronomists who up until that year had 
worked honestly all their lives but who now purposely sowed weeds in Russian fields (on the 
instructions, of course, of the Moscow institute, which had now been totally exposed; indeed, there 
were those same 200,000 unarrested members of the Working Peasants Party, the TKP!). Certain 
agronomists failed to put into effect the profound instructions of Lysenko — and in one such wave, in 
1931, Lorkh, the so-called "king" of the potato, was sent to Kazakhstan. Others carried out the 
Lysenko directives too precisely and thus exposed their absurdity. (In 1934 Pskov agronomists 
sowed flax on the snow — exactly as Lysenko had ordered. The seeds swelled up, grew moldy, and 
died. The big fields lay empty for a year. Lysenko could not say that the snow was a kulak or that he 
himself was an ass. He accused the agronomists of being kulaks and of distorting his technology. 
And the agronomists went off to Siberia.) Beyond all this, in almost every Machine and Tractor 
Station wrecking in the repairing of tractors was discovered — and that is how the failures of the first 
collective farm years were explained! 

There was a wave "for harvest losses" (losses in comparison with the arbitrary harvest figures 
announced the preceding spring by the "Commission for Determination of the Harvest"). 

There was a wave "for failure to fulfill obligations undertaken for delivery to the state of 
breadgrains" — the District Party Committee had undertaken the obligation, and the collective farm 
had not fulfilled it: go to prison! 

There was a wave for snipping ears, the nighttime snipping of individual ears of grain in the field — a 
totally new type of agricultural activity, a new type of harvesting! The wave of those caught doing 
this was not small — it included many tens of thousands of peasants, many of them not even adults 
but boys, girls, and small children whose elders had sent them out at night to snip, because they had 
no hope of receiving anything from the collective farm for their daytime labor. For this bitter and not 
very productive occupation (an extreme of poverty to which the peasants had not been driven even in 
serfdom) the courts handed out a full measure: ten years for what ranked as an especially dangerous 
theft of socialist property under the notorious law of August 7, 1932 — which in prisoners' lingo was 
known simply as the law of Seven-eighths. 

This law of "Seven-eighths" produced another big, separate wave from the construction projects of 
the First and Second Five- Year Plans, from transport, trade, and industry. Big thefts were turned 
over to the NKVD. This wave must further be kept in mind as one that kept on flowing steadily for 
the next fifteen years, until 1947, especially during the war years. (Then in 1947 the original law was 



expanded and made more harsh.) 

Now at last we can catch our breath! Now at last all the mass waves are coming to an end! Comrade 
Molotov said on May 17, 1933: "We do not see our task as being mass repressions." Whew! At last! 
Begone, nighttime fears! But what's that dog howling out there? Go get 'em. Go get 'em. 

And here we are! The Kirov wave from Leningrad has begun. While it lasted the tension was 
acknowledged to be so great that special staffs of the NKVD were set up in each and every District 
Executive Committee of the city and an "accelerated" judicial procedure was introduced. (Even 
earlier, it had not been famous for being slow.) And there was no right of appeal. (There had been no 
appeal earlier.) It is also believed that one-quarter of Leningrad was purged — cleaned out — in 1934- 
1935. 

Let this estimate be disproved by those who have the exact statistics and are willing to publish them. 
(To be sure, this wave took in much more than Leningrad alone. It had a substantial impact on the 
rest of the country in a form that was consistent though chaotic: the firing from the civil service of all 
those still left there whose fathers had been priests, all former noble- women, and all persons having 
relatives abroad.) 

Among such lashing waves as this, certain modest, changeless wavelets always got lost; they were 
little heard of, but they, too, kept flowing on and on: 

• There were Schutzbiindlers who had lost the class battles in Vienna and had come to the Fatherland 
of the world proletariat for refuge. 

• There were Esperantists — a harmful group which Stalin undertook to smoke out during the years 
when Hitler was doing the same thing. 

• There were the unliquidated remnants of the Free Philosophic Society — illegal philosophical 
circles. 

• There were teachers who disagreed with the advanced laboratory-team system of instruction. (In 
1933, for instance, Natalya Ivanovna Bugayenko was arrested by the Rostov GPU — but in the third 
month of her interrogation, a government decree suddenly announced that the system was a faulty 
one. And she was let go.) 

• There were employees of the Political Red Cross, which, through the efforts of Yekaterina 
Peshkova, was still defending its existence. 

• There were mountain tribes of the North Caucasus who were arrested for their 1935 revolt. And 
non-Russian nationalities kept rolling in from one area, then another. (On the Volga Canal 
construction site newspapers were published in four national languages: Tatar, Turkish, Uzbek, and 
Kazakh. And, of course, there were readers to read them!) 

• There were once again believers, who this time were unwilling to work on Sundays. (They had 
introduced the five and the six-day week.) And there were collective farmers sent up for sabotage 
because they refused to work on religious feast days, as had been their custom in the era of 
individual farms. 

• And, always, there were those who refused to become NKVD informers. (Among them were 
priests who refused to violate the secrecy of the confessional, for the Organs had very quickly 
discovered how useful it was to learn the content of confessions — the only use they found for 
religion.) 



• And members of non-Orthodox sects were arrested on an ever-wider scale. 

• And the Big Solitaire game with the socialists went on and on. 

And last of all there was a category I have not yet named, a wave that was continually flowing: 
Section 10, also known as KRA (Counter-Revolutionary Agitation) and also known as ASA (Anti- 
Soviet Agitation). The wave of Section 10 was perhaps the most constant of all. It never stopped, and 
whenever there was another big wave, as, for instance, in 1937, 1945, and 1949, its waters became 
particularly swollen. 

[This particular unremitting wave grabbed up anyone at all at any moment. But when it came to 
outstanding intellectuals in the thirties, they sometimes considered it cleverer to fabricate a case 
based on some conspicuously shameful violation (like pederasty; or, in the case of Professor Pletnev, 
the allegation that, left alone with a woman patient, he bit her breast. A national newspaper reports 
such an incident — and just try to deny it!).] 

Paradoxically enough, every act of the all-penetrating, eternally wakeful Organs, over a span of 
many years, was based solely on one article of the 140 articles of the nongeneral division of the 
Criminal Code of 1926. One can find more epithets in praise of this article than Turgenev once 
assembled to praise the Russian language, or Nekrasov to praise Mother Russia: great, powerful, 
abundant, highly ramified, multiform, wide-sweeping 58, which summed up the world not so much 
through the exact terms of its sections as in their extended dialectical interpretation. 

Who among us has not experienced its all-encompassing embrace? In all truth, there is no step, 
thought, action, or lack of action under the heavens which could not be punished by the heavy hand 
of Article 58. 

The article itself could not be worded in such broad terms, but it proved possible to interpret it this 
broadly. 

Article 58 was not in that division of the Code dealing with political crimes; and nowhere was it 
categorized as "political." No. It was included, with crimes against public order and organized 
gangsterism, in a division of "crimes against the state." Thus the Criminal Code starts off by refusing 
to recognize anyone under its jurisdiction as a political offender. All are simply criminals. 

Article 58 consisted of fourteen sections. 

In Section 1 we learn that any action (and, according to Article 6 of the Criminal Code, any absence 
of action) directed toward the weakening of state power was considered to be counterrevolutionary. 

Broadly interpreted, this turned out to include the refusal of a prisoner in camp to work when in a 
state of starvation and exhaustion. This was a weakening of state power. And it was punished by 
execution. (The execution of malingerers during the war.) 

From 1934 on, when we were given back the term Motherland, subsections were inserted on treason 
to the Motherland — la, lb, Ic, Id. According to these subsections, all actions directed against the 
military might of the U.S.S.R. were punishable by execution (lb), or by ten years' imprisonment 
(la), but the lighter penalty was imposed only when mitigating circumstances were present and upon 
civilians only. 

Broadly interpreted: when our soldiers were sentenced to only ten years for allowing themselves to 
be taken prisoner (action injurious to Soviet military might), this was humanitarian to the point of 
being illegal. According to the Stalinist code, they should all have-been shot on their return home. 



(Here is another example of broad interpretation. I remember well an encounter in the Butyrki in the 
summer of 1946. A certain Pole had been bom in Lemberg when that city was part of the Austro- 
Hungarian Empire. Until World War II he lived in his native city, by then located in Poland; then he 
went to Austria, where he entered the service, and in 1945 he was arrested there by the Russians. 
Since by this time Austrian Lemberg had become Ukrainian Lvov, he received a tenner under Article 
54- la of the Ukrainian Criminal Code: i.e., for treason to his motherland, the Ukraine! And at his 
interrogation the poor fellow couldn't prove that treason to the Ukraine had not been his purpose 
when he went to Vienna! And that's how he conned his way into becoming a traitor.) 

One important additional broadening of the section on treason was its application "via Article 19 of 
the Criminal Code"- -"via intent." In other words, no treason had taken place; but the interrogator 
envisioned an intention to betray — and that was enough to justify a full term, the same as for actual 
treason. True, Article 19 proposes that there be no penalty for intent, but only for preparation, but 
given a dialectical reading one can understand intention as preparation. And "preparation is punished 
in the same way [i.e., with the same penalty] as the crime itself" (Criminal Code). In general, "we 
draw no distinction between intention and the crime itself, and this is an instance of the superiority 
of Soviet legislation to bourgeois legislation." 

[A. Y. Vyshinsky (editor), Ot Tyurem k Vospitatelnym Uchrezhdeniyam (From Prisons to 
Rehabilitative Institutions), a collection of articles published by the Criminal Policy Institute, 
Moscow, Sovetskoye Zakonodatelstvo Publishing House, 1934.] 

Section 2 listed armed rebellion, seizure of power in the capital or in the provinces, especially for the 
purpose of severing any part of the U.S.S.R. through the use of force. For this the penalties ranged 
up to and included execution (as in every succeeding section). 

This was expanded to mean something which could not be explicitly stated in the article itself but 
which revolutionary sense of justice could be counted on to suggest: it applied to every attempt of 
any national republic to act upon its right to leave the U.S.S.R. After all, the word "force" is not 
defined in terms of whom it applies to. Even when the entire population of a republic wants to 
secede, if Moscow is opposed, the attempted secession will he forcible. Thus, all Estonian, Latvian, 
Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Turkestan nationalists very easily received their tens and their twenty- 
fives under this section. 

Section 3 was "assisting in any way or by any means a foreign state at war with the U.S.S.R." 

This section made it possible to condemn any citizen who had been in occupied territory — whether 
he had nailed on the heel of a German soldier's shoe or sold him a bunch of radishes. And it could be 
applied to any citizeness who had helped Uft the fighting spirit of an enemy soldier by dancing and 
spending the night with him. Not everyone was actually sentenced under this section — because of 
the huge numbers who had been in occupied territory. But everyone who had been in occupied 
territory could have been sentenced under it. 

Section 4 spoke about (fantastic!) aid to the international bourgeoisie. 

To whom, one wonders, could this possibly refer? And yet, broadly interpreted, and with the help of 
a revolutionary conscience, it was easy to find categories: All emigres who had left the country 
before 1920, i.e., several years before the Code was even written, and whom our armies came upon 
in Europe a quarter-century later — in 1944 and 1945 — received 58-4: ten years or execution. What 
could they have been doing abroad other than aiding the international bourgeoisie? (In the example 
of the young people's musical society already cited, we have seen that the international bourgeoisie 
could also be aided from inside the U.S.S.R.) They were, in addition, aided by all SR's, all 
Mensheviks (the section was drafted with them in mind), and, subsequently, by the engineers of the 
State Planning Commission and the Supreme Council of the Economy. 



Section 5 was inciting a foreign state to declare war against the U.S.S.R. 

A chance was missed to apply this section against Stalin and his diplomatic and'military circle in 
1940 — 1941. Their blindness and insanity led to just that. Who if not they drove Russia into 
shameful, unheard-of defeats, incomparably worse than the defeats of Tsarist Russia in 1904 or 
1915? Defeats such as Russia had never known since the thirteenth century. 

Section 6 was espionage. 

This section was interpreted so broadly that if one were to count up all those sentenced under it one 
might conclude that during Stalin's time our people supported life not by agriculture or industry, but 
only by espionage on behalf of foreigners, and by living on subsidies from foreign intelligence 
services. Espionage was very convenient in its simplicity, comprehensible both to an undeveloped 
criminal and to a learned jurist, to a journalist and to public opinion. 

[And very likely spy mania was not merely the narrow-minded predilection of Stalin alone. It was 
very useful for everyone who possessed any privileges. It became the natural justification for 
increasingly widespread secrecy, the withholding of information, closed doors and security passes, 
fenced-off dachas and secret, restricted special shops. People had no way of penetrating the armor 
plate of spy mania and learning how the bureaucracy made its cozy arrangements, loafed, blundered, 
ate, and took its amusements.] 

The breadth of interpretation of Section 6 lay further in the fact that people were sentenced not only 
for actual espionage but also for: 

PSh — Suspicion of Espionage — or NSh — Unproven Espionage — for which they gave the whole 
works. 

And even SVPSh — Contacts Leading to (!) Suspicion of Espionage. 

In other words, let us say that an acquaintance of an acquaintance of your wife had a dress made by 
the same seamstress (who was, of course, an NKVD agent) used by the wife of a foreign diplomat. 

These 58-6 PSh's and SVPSh's were sticky sections. They required the strict confinement and 
incessant supervision of those convicted (for, after all, an intelligence service might reach out its 
tentacles to its protege even in a camp); also, such prisoners could be moved only under convoy — 
armed escort. In general, all the lettered articles — which were, in fact, not articles of the Code at all 
but frightening combinations of capital letters (and we shall encounter more of them in this 
chapter) — always contained a touch of the enigmatic, always remained incomprehensible, and it 
wasn't at all clear whether they were offshoots of Article 58 or independent and extremely 
dangerous. In many camps prisoners convicted under the provisions of these lettered articles were 
subjected to restrictions even more stringent than those of the ordinary 58's. 

Section 7 applied to subversion of industry, transport, trade, and the circulation of money. 

In the thirties, extensive use was made of this section to catch masses of people — under the 
simplified and widely understood catchword wrecking. In reality, everything enumerated under 
Section 7 was very obviously and plainly being subverted daily. So didn't someone have to be guilty 
of it all? For centuries the people had built and created, always honorably, always honestly, even for 
serf-owners and nobles. Yet no one, from the days of Ryurik on, had ever heard of wrecking. But 
now, when for the first time all the wealth had come to belong to the people, hundreds of thousands 
of the best sons of the people inexplicably rushed off to wreck. (Section 7 did not provide for 
wrecking in agriculture, but since it was impossible otherwise to explain rationally how and why the 
fields were choked with weeds, why harvests were falUng off, why machines were breaking down. 



then dialectic sensitivity brought agriculture, too, under its sway.) 

Section 8 covered terror (not that terror from above for which the Soviet Criminal Code was 
supposed to "provide a foundation and basis in legality," but terrorism from below). 

Terror was construed in a very broad sense, not simply a matter of putting bombs under governors' 
carriages, but, for example, smashing in the face of a personal enemy if he was an activist in the 
Party, the Komsomol, or the police! — that was already terror. The murder of an activist, especially, 
was always treated more seriously than the murder of an ordinary person (as in the Code of 
Hammurabi in the eighteenth century B.C.). If a husband killed his wife's lover, it was very fortunate 
for him if the victim turned out not to be a Party member; he would be sentenced under Article 136 
as a common criminal, who was a "social ally" and didn't require an armed escort. But if the lover 
turned out to have been a Party member, the husband became an enemy of the people, with a 58-8 
sentence. 

An even more important extension of the concept was attained by interpreting Section 8 in terms of 
that same Article 19, i.e., intent in the sense of preparation, to include not only a direct threat against 
an activist uttered near a beer hall ("Just you wait!") but also the quick-tempered retort of a peasant 
woman at the market ("Oh, drop dead!"). Both qualified as TN — Terrorist Intent — and provided a 
basis for applying the article in all its severity. 

[This sounds Uke an exaggeration, a farce, but it was not I who invented that farce. I was in prison 
with these individuals.] 

Section 9 concerned destruction or damage by explosion or arson (always with a 
counterrevolutionary purpose), for which the abbreviated term was "diversion" — in other words, 
sabotage. 

The expansion of this section was based on the fact that the counterrevolutionary purpose could be 
discerned by the interrogator, who knew best what was going on in the criminal's mind. And every 
human error, failure, mistake at work or in the production process, remained unforgiven, and was 
therefore considered to be a case of "diversion." 

But there was no section in Article 58 which was interpreted as broadly and with so ardent a 
revolutionary conscience as Section 10. Its definition was: "Propaganda or agitation, containing an 
appeal for the overthrow, subverting, or weakening of the Soviet power . . . and, equally, the 
dissemination or preparation or possession of literary materials of similar content." For this section 
in peacetime a minimum penalty only was set (not any less! not too light!); no upper limit was set for 
the maximum penalty. 

Such was the fearlessness of the great Power when confronted by the word of a subject. 

The famous extensions of this famous section were as follows: The scope of "agitation containing an 
appeal" was enlarged to include a face-to-face conversation between friends or even between 
husband and wife, or a private letter. The word "appeal" could mean personal advice. And we say 
"could mean" because, in fact, it did. 

"Subverting and weakening" the government could include any idea which did not coincide with or 
rise to the level of intensity of the ideas expressed in the newspaper on any particular day. After all, 
anything which does not strengthen must weaken: Indeed, anything which does not completely fit in, 
coincide, subverts! 

And he who sings not with us today 
is against 



us! 

— MAYAKOVSKY 



The term "preparation of literary materials" covered every letter, note, or private diary, even when 
only the original document existed. 

Thus happily expanded, what thought was there, whether merely in the mind, spoken aloud, or jotted 
down, which was not covered by Section 10? 

Section 1 1 was a special one; it had no independent content of its own, but provided for an 
aggravating factor in any of the preceding ones: if the action was undertaken by an organization or if 
the criminal joined an organization. 

In actual practice, the section was so broadened that no organization whatever was required. I myself 
experienced the subtle application of this section. Two of us had secretly exchanged thoughts — in 
other words we were the beginnings of an organization, in other words an organization! 

Section 12 concerned itself closely with the conscience of our citizens: it dealt with the failure to 
make a denunciation of any action of the types listed. And the penalty for the mortal sin of failure to 
make a denunciation carried no maximum limit! 

This section was in itself such a fantastic extension of everything else that no further extension was 
needed. He knew and he did not tell became the equivalent of "He did it himself" ! 

Section 13, presumably long since out of date, had to do with service in the Tsarist secret police — 
the Okhrana. (A subsequent form of analogous service was, on the contrary, considered patriotic.) 

[There are psychological bases for suspecting I. Stalin of having been liable under this section of 
Article 58 also. By no means all the documents relating to this type of service survived February, 
1917, to become matters of public knowledge. V. F. Dzhunkovsky a former Tsarist police director, 
who died in the Kolyma, declared that the hasty burning of police archives in the first days of the 
February Revolution was a joint effort on the part of certain self-interested revolutionaries.] 

Section 14 stipulated the penalties for "conscious failure to carry out defined duties or intentionally 
careless execution of same." In brief this was called "sabotage" or "economic counter-revolution" — 
and the penalties, of course, included execution. 

It was only the interrogator who, after consulting his revolutionary sense of justice, could separate 
what was intentional from what was unintentional. This section was applied to peasants who failed to 
come across with food deliveries. It was also applied to collective farmers who failed to work the 
required minimum number of "labor days"; to camp prisoners who failed to complete their work 
norms; and, in a peculiar ricochet, after the war it came to be applied to members of Russia's 
organized underworld of thieves, the blatnye or blatari, for escaping from camp. In other words, by 
an extension, a thief s flight from camp was interpreted as subversion of the camp system rather than 
as a dash to freedom. 

Such was the last rib of the fan of Article 58 — a fan whose spread encompassed all human existence. 

Now that we have completed our review of this great Article of the Criminal Code, we are less likely 
to be astounded further on. Wherever the law is, crime can be found. 

The damascene steel of Article 58, first tried out in 1927, right after it was forged, was wetted by all 
the waves of the following decade, and with whistle and slash was used to the full to deal telling 
blows in the law's attack upon the people in 1937-1938. 



Here one has to make the point that the 1937 operation was not arbitrary or accidental, but well 
planned well ahead of time, and that in the first half of that year many Soviet prisons were re- 
equipped. Cots were taken out of the cells and continuous one- or two-storied board benches or 
bunks were built. 

[It was similarly not by chance that the "Big House" in Leningrad was finished in 1934, just in time 
for Kirov's asassination.] 

Old prisoners claim to remember that the first blow allegedly took the form of mass arrests, striking 
virtually throughout the whole country on one single August night. (But, knowing our clumsiness, I 
don't really believe this.) In that autumn, when people were trustingly expecting a big, nationwide 
amnesty on the twentieth anniversary of the October Revolution, Stalin, the prankster, added 
unheard-of fifteen- and twenty -year prison terms to the Criminal Code. 

[The twenty-five-year term was added for the thirtieth anniversary of the Revolution in 1947.] 

There is hardly any need to repeat here what has already been widely written, and will be written 
many times more, about 1937: that a crushing blow was dealt the upper ranks of the Party, the 
government, the military command, and the GPU-NKVD itself. 

[These days, as we observe the Chinese Cultural Revolution at the same stage — in the seventeenth 
year after its final victory — we can begin to consider it very likely that there exists a fundamental 
law of historical development. And even Stalin himself begins to seem only a blind and perfunctory 
executive agent.] 

There was hardly one province of the Soviet Union in which the first secretary of the Party 
Committee or the Chairman of the Provincial Executive Committee survived. Stalin picked more 
suitable people for his purposes. 

Olga Chavchavadze tells how it was in Tbilisi. In 1938 the Chairman of the City Executive 
Committee, his first deputy, department chiefs, their assistants, all the chief accountants, all the chief 
economists were arrested. New ones were appointed in their places. Two months passed, and the 
arrests began again: the chairman, the deputy, all eleven department chiefs, all the chief accountants, 
all the chief economists. The only people left at liberty were ordinary accountants, stenographers, 
charwomen, and messengers. . . . 

In the arrest of rank-and-file members of the Party there was evidently a hidden theme not directly 
stated anywhere in the indictments and verdicts: that arrests should be carried out predominantly 
among Party members who had joined before 1924. This was pursued with particular rigor in 
Leningrad, because all of them there had signed the "platform" of the New Opposition. (And how 
could they have refused to sign? How could they have refused to "trust" their Leningrad Provincial 
Party Committee?) 

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A district Party conference was under 
way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, 
replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was 
called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the 
conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an 
ovation." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause, rising to an ovation," 
continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people 
were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored 
Stalin. However, who would dare be \hQ first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee 
could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the 
ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was 



afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! 
And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on — six, seven, eight 
minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed 
with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap 
less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly — but up there with the presidium where everyone 
could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, 
stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still 
kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party 
Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm 
on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and 
on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And 
even then those who were left would not falter. . . . Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the 
paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took 
place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone 
else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump 
off his revolving wheel. 

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they 
went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted 
ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the 
final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: 

"Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!" 

[Told me by N. G ko.] 

(And just what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to stop?) 

Now that's what Darwin's natural selection is. And that's also how to grind people down with 
stupidity. 

But today a new myth is being created. Every story of 1937 that is printed, every reminiscence that is 
published, relates without exception the tragedy of the Communist leaders. They have kept on 
assuring us, and we have unwittingly fallen for it, that the history of 1937 and 1938 consisted chiefly 
of the arrests of the big Communists — and virtually no one else. But out of the millions arrested at 
that time, important Party and state officials could not possibly have represented more than 10 
percent. Most of the relatives standing in line with food parcels outside the Leningrad prisons were 
lower-class women, the sort who sold milk. 

The composition of the hordes who were arrested in that powerful wave and lugged off, half-dead, to 

the Archipelago was of such fantastic diversity that anyone who wants to deduce the rationale for it 
scientifically will rack his brain a long time for the answer. (To the contemporaries of the purge it 
was still more incomprehensible.) 

The real law underlying the arrests of those years was the assignment of quotas, the norms set, the 
planned allocations. Every city, every district, every military unit was assigned a specific quota of 
arrests to be carried out by a stipulated time. From then on everything else depended on the ingenuity 
of the Security operations personnel. 

The former Chekist Aleksandr Kalganov recalls that a telegram arrived in Tashkent: "Send 200!" 
They had just finished one clean-out, and it seemed as if there was "no one else" to take. Well, true, 
they had just brought in about fifty more from the districts. And then they had an idea! They would 
reclassify as 58's all the nonpolitical offenders being held by the police. No sooner said than done. 
But despite that, they had still not filled the quota. At that precise moment the police reported that a 



gypsy band had impudently encamped on one of the city squares and asked what to do with them. 
Someone had another bright idea! They surrounded the encampment and raked in all the gypsy men 
from seventeen to sixty as 58's! They had fulfilled the plan! 

This could happen another way as well: according to Chief of Police Zabolovsky, the Chekists of 
Ossetia were given a quota of five hundred to be shot in the Republic. They asked to have it 
increased, and they were permitted another 250. 

Telegrams transmitting instructions of this kind were sent via ordinary channels in a very 
rudimentary code. In Temryuk the woman telegrapher, in holy innocence, transmitted to the NKVD 
switchboard the message that 240 boxes of soap were to be shipped to Krasnodar the following day. 
In the morning she learned about a big wave of arrests and guessed the meaning of the message! She 
told her girl friend what kind of telegram it was — and was promptly arrested herself. 

(Was it indeed totally by chance that the code words for human beings were a box of soap? Or were 
they familiar with soap-making?) 

Of course, certain patterns could be discerned. 

Among those arrested were: 

Our own real spies abroad. (These were often the most dedicated Comintern workers and Chekists, 
and among them were many attractive women. They were called back to the Motherland and arrested 
at the border. They were then confronted with their former Comintern chief, for example, Mirov- 
Korona, who confirmed that he himself had been working for one of the foreign intelligence 
services — which meant that his subordinates were automatically guilty too. And the more dedicated 
they were, the worse it was for them.) 

Soviet employees of the Chinese Eastern Railroad, the KVZhD, were one and all arrested as 
Japanese spies, including their wives, children, and grandmothers. But we have to admit these arrests 
had already begun several years earlier. 

Koreans from the Far East were sent into exile in Kazakhstan — the first experiment in mass arrests 
on the basis of race. 

Leningrad Estonians were all arrested on the strength of having Estonian family names and charged 
with being anti-Communist Estonian spies. 

All Latvian Riflemen and all Latvian Chekists were arrested. Yes, indeed, those very Latvians who 
had been the midwives of the Revolution, who just a short while before had constituted the nucleus 
and the pride of the Cheka! And with them were taken even those Communists of bourgeois Latvia 
who had been exchanged in 1921 — and been freed thereby from their dreadful Latvian prison terms 
of two and three years. (In Leningrad, the Latvian Department of the Herzen Institute, the House of 
Latvian Culture, the Estonian Club, the Latvian Technicum, and the Latvian and Estonian 
newspapers were all closed down.) 

In the midst of the general to-do, the Big Solitaire game was finally wound up. All those not yet 
taken were raked in. There was no longer any reason to keep it secret. The time had come to write 
"finis" to the whole game. So now the socialists were taken off to prison in whole "exiles" (for 
example, the Ufa "exile" and the Saratov "exile"), and they were all sentenced together and driven 
off in herds to the slaughterhouses of the Archipelago. 

Nowhere was it specifically prescribed that more members of the intelligentsia should be arrested 
than of other groups. But just as the intelligentsia had never been overlooked in previous waves, it 



was not neglected in this one. A student's denunciation (and this combination of words, "student" 
and "denunciation," had ceased to sound outlandish) that a certain lecturer in a higher educational 
institution kept citing Lenin and Marx frequently but Stalin not at all was all that was needed for the 
lecturer not to show up for lectures any more. And what if he cited no one? All Leningrad 
Orientalists of the middle and younger generation were arrested. The entire staff of the Institute of 
the North, except for its NKVD informers, was arrested. They even went after schoolteachers. In 
Sverdlovsk one case involved thirty secondary schoolteachers and the head of the Provincial 
Education Department, Perel. 

[Five of them died before trial from tortures suffered during interrogation. Twenty-four died in 
camps. The thirtieth, Ivan Aristaulovich Punich, returned after his release and rehabilitation. (Had he 
died, we would have known nothing about the thirty, just as we know nothing about millions of 
others.) And the many "witnesses" who testified against them are still there in Sverdlovsk today — 
prospering, occupying responsible positions, or living on as special pensioners. Darwinian 
selection!] 

One of the terrible accusations against them was that they had made arrangements to have a New 
Year's tree in order to burn down the school. And the club fell with the regularity of a pendulum on 
the heads of the engineers — who by this time were no longer "bourgeois" but a whole Soviet 
generation of engineers. 

Because of an irregularity in the geological strata two mine tunnels which mine surveyor Nikolai 
Merkuryevich Mikov had calculated would meet failed to do so. He got Article 58-7 — twenty years. 

Six geologists (the Kotovich group) were sentenced to ten years under 58-7 "for intentionally 
concealing reserves of tin ore in underground sites in anticipation of the arrival of the Germans." (In 
other words, they had failed to find the deposits.) 

On the heels of the main waves followed an additional, special wave — of wives and the so-called 
"ChS" (Members of Families). Among them were the wives of important Party leaders and also, in 
certain places, Leningrad, for example, the wives of all those who had been sentenced to "ten years 
without the right to correspond" — in other words, those who were no longer among the living. The 
"ChS," as a rule, all got eights — eight years. (Well, that was still less than the dispossessed kulaks 
got and their children did not go to the Archipelago.) 

Piles of victims! Hills of victims! A frontal assault of the NKVD on the city: In one wave, for 
example, G. P. Matveyeva saw not only her husband but all three of her brothers arrested, and all in 
different cases. (Of the four, three never returned.) 

An electrician had a high-tension line break in his sector: 58-7 — twenty years. 

A Perm worker, Novikov, was accused of planning to blow up a Kama River Bridge. 

In that same city of Perm, Yuzhakov was arrested during the day, and at night they came for his 
wife. They presented her with a list of names and demanded that she sign a confession that they had 
all met in her house at a Menshevik-SR meeting (of course, they had not). They promised in return to 
let her out to be with her three children. She signed, destroying all those listed, and, of course, she 
herself remained in prison. 

Nadezhda Yudenich was arrested because of her family name. True, they established, after nine 
months, that she was not related to the White general, and they let her out (a mere trifle: during that 
time her mother had died of worry). 

The film Lenin in October was shown in Staraya Russa. Some-one present noticed the phrase in the 



film, "Palchinsky must know!" Palchinsky was defending tlie Winter Palace. But we have a nurse 
working here named Palchinskaya! Arrest her! They did arrest her. And it turned out that she 
actually was his wife — who had hidden in the provinces following his execution. 

In 1930, as small boys, the three brothers Pavel, Ivan, and Stepan Borushko came to the Soviet 
Union from Poland to live with their parents. Now as young men they were arrested for PSh — 
Suspicion of Espionage — and got ten years. 

A streetcar motorwoman of Krasnodar was returning on foot late at night from the car depot; on the 
outskirts of the city, to her misfortune, she passed some people working to free a truck that had 
gotten stuck. It turned out to be full of corpses — hands and legs stuck out from beneath the canvas. 
They wrote down her name and the next day she was arrested. The interrogator asked her what she 
had seen. She told him truthfully. (Darwinian selection!) Anti-Soviet Agitation — ten years. 

A plumber turned off the loudspeaker in his room every time the endless letters to Stalin were being 
read. 

[Who remembers them? They went on and on every day for hours! Stupefyingly identical! Levitan. 
the announcer, probably remembers them well: he used to read them in rolling tones, with great 
expression!] 

His next-door neighbor denounced him. (Where, oh where, is that neighbor today?) He got SOE — 
"Socially Dangerous Element" — eight years. 

A half-literate stovemaker used to enjoy writing his name in his free time. This raised his self- 
esteem. There was no blank paper around, so he wrote on newspapers. His neighbors found his 
newspaper in the sack in the communal toilet, with pen-and-ink nourishes across the countenance of 
the Father and Teacher. Anti-Soviet Agitation — ten years. 

Stalin and those close to him loved their portraits and splashed them all over the newspapers and 
issued them in millions of copies. The flies paid little heed to their sanctity, and it was a pity not to 
make use of the paper — and how many unfortunates got a term for that! 

Arrests rolled through the streets and apartment houses like an epidemic. Just as people transmit an 
epidemic infection from one to another without knowing it, by such innocent means as a handshake, 
a breath, handing someone something, so, too, they passed on the infection of inevitable arrest by a 
handshake, by a breath, by a chance meeting on the street. For if you are destined to confess 
tomorrow that you organized an underground group to poison the city's water supply, and if today I 
shake hands with you on the street, that means I, too, am doomed. 

Seven years earlier the city had watched while they massacred the countryside and considered it only 
natural. Now the countryside might have watched them massacre the city, but the countryside itself 
was too dark for that, and was still undergoing the finishing touches of its own slaughter. 

The surveyor (!) Saunin got fifteen years for ... cattle plague (!) in the district and for bad harvests (!) 
(and the entire leadership of the district was shot for the same reason). 

The secretary of a District Party Committee went into the fields to speed up the plowing, and an old 
peasant asked him whether he knew that for seven years the collective farmers had received not one 
single ounce of grain in return for their "labor days" — only straw and very Uttle of that. For his 
question the peasant got ASA — Anti-Soviet Agitation — ten years. 

Another peasant, with six children, met a different fate. Because he had six mouths to feed he 
devoted himself wholeheartedly to collective farm work, and kept hoping he would get some return 



for his labor. And he did — they awarded him a decoration. They awarded it at a special assembly, 
made speeches. In his reply, the peasant got carried away. He said, "Now if I could just have a sack 
of flour instead of this decoration! Couldn't I somehow?" A wolflike laugh rocketed through the hall, 
and the newly decorated hero went off to exile, together with all six of those dependent mouths. 

Should we wrap it all up and simply say that they arrested the innocent? But we omitted saying that 
the very concept of guilt had been repealed by the proletarian revolution and, at the beginning of the 
thirties, was defined as rightist opportunism! So we can't even discuss these out-of-date concepts, 
guilt and innocence. 

The reverse wave of 1939 was an unheard-of incident in the history of the Organs, a blot on their 
record! But, in fact, this reverse wave was not large; it included about 1 to 2 percent of those who 
had been arrested but not yet convicted, who had not yet been sent away to far-off places and had not 
yet perished. It was not large, but it was put to effective use. It was like giving back one kopeck 
change from a ruble, but it was necessary in order to heap all the blame on that dirty Yezhov, to 
strengthen the newcomer, Beria, and to cause the Leader himself to shine more brightly. With this 
kopeck they skillfully drove the ruble right into the ground. After all, if "they had sorted things out 
and freed some people" (and even the newspapers wrote intrepidly about individual cases of persons 
who had been slandered), it meant that the rest of those arrested were indeed scoundrels! And those 
who returned kept silent. They had signed pledges not to speak out. They were mute with terror. And 
there were very few who knew even a little about the secrets of the Archipelago. The distinction was 
as before: Black Marias at night and demonstrations by day. 

But for that matter they soon took that kopeck back — during those same years and via those same 
sections of the boundless Article 58. Well, who in 1940 noticed the wave of wives arrested for 
failure to renounce their husbands? And who in Tambov remembers that during that year of peace 
they arrested an entire jazz orchestra playing at the "Modem" Cinema Theatre because they all 
turned out to be enemies of the people? And who noticed the thirty thousand Czechs who in 1939 
fled from occupied Czechoslovakia to their Slavic kinfolk in the U.S.S.R.? It was impossible to 
guarantee that a single one of them was not a spy. 

They sent them all off to northern camps. (And it was out of those camps that the "Czechoslovak 
Corps" materialized during the war.) And was it not, indeed, in 1939 that we reached out our helping 
hands to the West Ukrainians and the West Byelorussians, and, in 1940, to the Baltic states and to 
the Moldavians? It turned out that our brothers badly needed to be purged, and from them, too, 
flowed waves of social prophylaxis. They took those who were too independent, too influential, 
along with those who were too well-to-do, too intelligent, too noteworthy; they took, particularly, 
many Poles from former Polish provinces. (It was then that ill-fated Katyn was filled up; and then, 
too, that in the northern camps they stockpiled fodder for the future army of Sikorski and Anders.) 
They arrested officers everywhere. Thus the population was shaken up, forced into silence, and left 
with-out any possible leaders of resistance. Thus it was that wisdom was instilled, that former ties 
and former friendships were cut off. 

Finland ceded its isthmus to us with zero population. Nevertheless, the removal and resettlement of 
all persons with Finnish blood took place throughout Soviet Karelia and in Leningrad in 1940. We 
didn't notice that wavelet: we have no Finnish blood. 

In the Finnish War we undertook our first experiment in convicting our war prisoners as traitors to 
the Motherland. The first such experiment in human history; and would you believe it? — we didn't 
notice! 

That was the rehearsal — just at that moment the war burst upon us. And with it a massive retreat. It 
was essential to evacuate swiftly everyone who could be got out of the western republics that were 
being abandoned to the enemy. In the rush, entire military units — regiments, antiaircraft and artillery 



batteries — were left behind intact in Lithuania. But they still managed to get out several thousand 
families of unreliable Lithuanians. (Four thousand of them were subsequently turned over to be 
plundered by thieves in camp at Krasnoyarsk.) From June 23 on, in Latvia and Estonia, they speeded 
up the arrests. But the ground was burning under them, and they were forced to leave even faster. 
They forgot to take whole fortresses with them, like the one at Brest, but they did not forget to shoot 
down political prisoners in the cells and courtyards of Lvov, Rovno, Tallinn, and many other 
Western prisons. In the Tartu Prison they shot 192 prisoners and threw their corpses down a well. 

How can one visualize it? You know nothing. The door of your cell opens, and they shoot you. You 
cry out in your death agony, and there is no one to hear your cries or tell of them except the prison 
stones. They say, however, that there were some who weren't successfully finished off, and we may 
someday read a book about that too. 

In the rear, the first wartime wave was for those spreading rumors and panic. That was the language 
of a special decree, outside the Code, issued in the first days of the war. 

[I myself almost felt the impact of that decree. I was standing in line at the bread store, when a 
policeman called me out and took me off for the sake of his score. If it had not been for a fortunate 
intervention, I might have started out in Gulag right away instead of going off to war.] 

This was just a trial bloodletting in order to maintain a general state of tension. They gave everyone 
ten years for it, but it was not considered part of Article 58, and therefore those few who survived the 
war-time camps were amnestied in 1945. 

Then there was a wave of those who failed to turn in radio receivers or radio parts. For one radio 
tube found (as a result of denunciation) they gave ten years. 

Then there was the wave of Germans — Germans living on the Volga, colonists in the Ukraine and 
the North Caucasus, and all Germans in general who lived anywhere in the Soviet Union. The 
determining factor here was blood, and even heroes of the Civil War and old members of the Party 
who were German were sent off into exile. 

[They judged blood by family name. The design engineer Vasily Okorokov had found it 
inconvenient to sign his drawings with his real name. Consequently, in the thirties, when it was still 
legally possible, he had changed his name to Robert Shtekker. It was elegant, and he was able to 
work up a good-looking professional signature with it. Now he was arrested as a German — and given 
no chance to prove he was not. So he was exiled. "Is this your real name? What assignments were 
you given by the Fascist intelligence service?" Then there was that native of Tambov whose real 
name was Kaverznev, and who changed it to Kolbe in 1918. At what point did he share Okorokov's 
fate?] 

In essence, the exile of the Germans was similar to the dispossession of the kulaks. But it was less 
harsh, since the Germans were allowed to take more of their possessions with them and were not sent 
off to such fatal, deadly areas. As had been the case with the kulaks, the German exile had no 
juridical basis. The Criminal Code in itself was one thing, and the exile of hundreds of thousands of 
people was something else entirely. It was the personal edict of a monarch. In addition, this was his 
first experiment of the sort with an entire nationality, and he found it extremely interesting from a 
theoretical point of view. 

By the end of the summer of 1941, becoming bigger in the autumn, the wave of the encircled was 
surging in. These were the defenders of their native land, the very same warriors whom the cities had 
seen off to the front with bouquets and bands a few months before, who had then sustained the 
heaviest tank assaults of the Germans, and in the general chaos, and through no fault of their own, 
had spent a certain time as isolated units not in enemy imprisonment, not at all, but in temporary 



encirclement, and later had broken out. And instead of being given a brotherly embrace on their 
return, such as every other army in the world would have given them, instead of being given a 
chance to rest up, to visit their families, and then return to their units — they were held on suspicion, 
disarmed, deprived of all rights, and taken away in groups to identification points and screening 
centers where officers of the Special Branches started interrogating them, distrusting not only their 
every word but their very identity. Identification consisted of cross-questioning, confrontations, 
pitting the evidence of one against another. Afterward, some of those who had been encircled were 
restored to their former names, ranks, and responsibilities and went off to military units. Others, 
fewer in number at the start, constituted the first wave of traitors of the Motherland under 58- lb. But 
at first, until the standard penalty was finally determined, they got less than ten years. 

That was how the active army was kept purged. But there was also an enormous inactive army in the 
Far East and in Mongolia, 

and it was the noble task of the Special Branches to keep that army from growing rusty. And for lack 
of anything to do, the heroes of Khalkhin-Gol and Khasan began to let their tongues wag, especially 
after they were permitted to examine the Degtyarev automatic pistols and the regimental mortars, 
which until then had been kept secret even from Soviet soldiers. With such weapons in their hands, it 
was hard for them to understand why we were retreating in the west. With all Siberia and the Urals 
between them and European Russia, it was not easy for them to grasp that in retreating seventy miles 
a day we were simply repeating the Kutuzov entrapment maneuver. Their comprehension could be 
helped along only by means of a wave from the Eastern Army. And at that point lips tightened and 
faith became steely. 

It was obvious that a wave had also to roll in high places — of those to blame for the retreat. (After 
all, it was not the Great Strategist who was at fault!) It was a small wave, just half a hundred men, a 
generals' wave. They were in Moscow prisons by the summer of 1941, and in October, 1941, they 
were sent off on a prisoner transport. Most of the generals were from the air force; among them were 
Air Force Commander Smushkevich and General Ptukhin, who was known to have said: "If I had 
known, I would have first bombed our Dear Father, and then gone off to prison!" And there were 
others. 

The victory outside Moscow gave rise to a new wave: guilty Muscovites. Looking at things after the 
event, it turned out that those Muscovites who had not run away and who had not been evacuated but 
had fearlessly remained in the threatened capital, which had been abandoned by the authorities, were 
by that very token under suspicion either of subverting governmental authority (58-10); or of staying 
on to await the Germans (58-la, via 19, a wave which kept on providing fodder for the interrogators 
of Moscow and Leningrad right up to 1945). 

It need hardly be said that 58-10, ASA — Anti-Soviet Agitation — never let up but hovered over the 
front and in the rear throughout the war. Sentences under 58-10 were handed out to evacuees who 
talked about the horrors of the retreat (it was clear from the newspapers that the retreat was 
proceeding according to plan); to those in the rear who were guilty of the slanderous rumor that 
rations were meager; to those at the front who were guilty of the slanderous rumor that the Germans 
had excellent equipment; and to those everywhere who, in 1942, were guilty of the slanderous rumor 
that people were dying of starvation in blockaded Leningrad. 

During that same year, after the disasters at Kerch (120,000 prisoners), at Kharkov (even more), and 
in the course of the big southern retreat to the Caucasus and the Volga, another very important wave 
of officers and soldiers was pumped through — those who refused to stand to the death and who 
retreated without permission, the men whom, in the words of Stalin's immortal Order No. 227, the 
Motherland could not forgive for the shame they had caused her. This wave, however, never reached 
Gulag: after accelerated processing by divisional tribunals, it was, to a man, herded into punishment 
battalions, and was soaked up in the red sand of advanced positions, leaving not a trace. Thus was 



cemented the foundation of the StaUngrad victory, but it has found no place in the usual Russian 
history and exists only in the private history of the sewage system. 

(Incidentally, we are here trying to identify only those waves which came into Gulag from outside. 
There was, after all, an incessant internal recirculation from reservoir to reservoir, through the 
system of so-called sentencing in camp, which was particularly rampant during the war years. But 
we are not considering those in this chapter.) 

Conscientiousness requires that we recall also the reverse waves of wartime: the previously 
mentioned Czechs and Poles who were released; as well as criminals released for service at the front. 

From 1943 on, when the war turned in our favor, there began the multimilUon wave from the 
occupied territories and from Europe, which got larger every year up to 1946. Its two main divisions 
were: 

• Civilians who had lived under the Germans or among Germans — hung with a tenner under the 
letter "a": 58-la. 

• Military personnel who had been POW's — who were nailed with a tenner under the letter "b": 58- 
Ib. 

Everyone living under the occupation wanted, of course, to survive, and therefore could not remain 
with hands folded, and thereby theoretically earned, along with his daily bread, a future sentence — if 
not for treason to the Motherland, then at least for aiding and abetting the enemy. However, in actual 
practice, it was enough to note in the passport serial number that a person had been in occupied 
territory. To arrest all such persons would have been, from the economic point of view, irrational, 
because it would have depopulated such enormous areas. All that was required in order to heighten 
the general consciousness was to arrest a certain percentage — of those guilty, those half-guilty, those 
quarter-guilty, and those who had hung out their footcloths to dry on the same branch as the 
Germans. 

After all, even one percent of just one million fills up a dozen full-blooded camps. 

And dismiss the thought that honorable participation in an underground anti-German organization 
would surely protect one from being arrested in this wave. More than one case proved this. For 
instance, there was the Kiev Komsomol member whom the underground organization sent to serve 
in the Kiev police during the German occupation in order to obtain inside information. The boy kept 
the Komsomol honestly informed about everything, but when our forces arrived on the scene, he got 
his tenner because he couldn't, while serving in the police, fail to acquire some of the enemy's spirit 
or to carry out some enemy orders. 

Those who were in Europe got the stiffest punishments of all, even though they went there as 
conscripted German slaves. That was because they had seen something of European life and could 
talk about it. And their stories, which made unpleasant listening for us (except, of course, for the 
travel notes of sensible writers), were especially unpleasant during the postwar years of ruin and 
disorganization; not everyone, after all, was able to report that things in Europe were hopelessly bad 
and that it was absolutely impossible to live there. 

That also was the reason why they sentenced the majority of war prisoners (it was not simply 
because they had allowed themselves to be captured), particularly those POW's who had seen a little 
more of the West than a German death camp. 

[That was not such a clear-cut decision at the start. Even in 1943 there were certain separate waves 
which were like no others — like the so-called "Africans," who bore this nickname for a long time at 



the Vorkuta construction projects. These were Russian war prisoners of the Germans, who had been 
taken prisoner a second time when the Americans captured them from Rommel's army in Africa (the 
"Hiwi"). In 1943 they were sent in Studebakers, through Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, to their Motherland. 
And on a desert gulf of the Caspian, they were immediately put behind barbed wire. The police who 
received them ripped off their military insignia and liberated them of all things the Americans had 
given them (keeping them for themselves, of course, not turning them over to the state); then they 
sent them off to Vorkuta to await special orders, without (due to inexperience) sentencing them to a 
specific term under any article of the Code. These "Africans" lived in Vorkuta in a betwixt-and- 
between condition. They were not under guard, but they were given no passes, and without passes 
they could not take so much as one step in Vorkuta. They were paid wages at the same rate as free 
workers, but they were treated like prisoners. And the special orders never did come. They were 
forgotten men.] 

This was obvious from the fact that interned persons were sentenced as severely as POW's. For 
example, during the first days of the war one of our destroyers went aground on Swedish territory. 
Its crew proceeded to live freely in Sweden during all the rest of the war, and in such comfort and 
plenty as they had never experienced before and would never experience again. The U.S.S.R. 
retreated, attacked, starved and died, while those scoundrels stuffed their neutral mugs. After the war 
Sweden returned them to us along with the destroyer. Their treason to the Motherland was 
indubitable — but somehow the case didn't get off the ground. They let them go their different ways 
and then pasted them with Anti-Soviet Agitation for their lovely stories in praise of freedom and 
good eating in capitalist Sweden. (This was the Kadenko group.) 

[What happened to this group later makes an anecdote. In camp they kept their mouths shut about 
Sweden, fearing they'd get a second term. But people in Sweden somehow found out about their fate 
and published slanderous reports in the press. By that time the boys were scattered far and near 
among various camps. Suddenly, on the strength of special orders, they were all yanked out and 
taken to the Kresty Prison in Leningrad. There they were fed for two months as though for slaughter 
and allowed to let their hair grow. Then they were dressed with modest elegance, rehearsed on what 
to say and to whom, and warned that any bastard who dared to squeak out of turn would get a bullet 
in his skull — and they were led off to a press conference for selected foreign journalists and some 
others who had known the entire crew in Sweden. 

The former internees bore themselves cheerfully, described where they were living, studying, and 
working, and expressed their indignation at the bourgeois slander they had read about not long 
before in the Western press (after all, Western papers are sold in the Soviet Union at every comer 
newsstand!). And so they had written to one another and decided to gather in Leningrad. (Their 
travel expenses didn't bother them in the least.) Their fresh, shiny appearance completely gave the lie 
to the newspaper canard. The discredited journalists went off to write their apologies. It was wholly 
inconceivable to the Western imagination that there could be any other explanation. And the men 
who had been the subjects of the interview were taken off to a bath, had their hair cut off again, were 
dressed in their former rags, and sent back to the same camps. But because they had conducted 
themselves properly, none of them was given a second term.] 

Within the over-all wave of those from formerly occupied areas, there followed, one after another, 
the quick and compact waves of the nationalities which had transgressed: 

• In 1943, the Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, and Balkars. 

• In 1944, the Crimean Tatars. 

They would not have been pushed out into eternal exile so energetically and swiftly had it not been 
that regular army units and military trucks were assigned to help the Organs. The military units 
gallantly surrounded the auls, or settlements, and, within twenty-four hours, with the speed of a 



parachute attack, those who had nested there for centuries past found themselves removed to railroad 
stations, loaded by the trainload, and rushed off to Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the 
Russian North. Within one day their land and their property had been turned over to their "heirs." 

What had happened to the Germans at the beginning of the war now happened to these nationalities: 
they were exiled solely on the basis of blood. There was no filling out of questionnaires; Party 
members, Heroes of Labor, and heroes of the still-unfinished war were all sent along with the rest. 

During the last years of the war, of course, there was a wave of German war criminals who were 
selected from the POW camps and transferred by court verdict to the jurisdiction of Gulag. 

In 1945, even though the war with Japan didn't last three weeks, great numbers of Japanese war 
prisoners were raked in for urgent construction projects in Siberia and Central Asia, and the same 
process of selecting war criminals for Gulag was carried out among them. 

[Without knowing the details, I am nevertheless convinced that a great many of these Japanese could 
not have been sentenced legitimately. It was an act of revenge, as well as a means of holding onto 
manpower for as long a period as possible.] 

At the end of 1944, when our army entered the Balkans, and especially in 1945, when it reached into 
Central Europe, a wave of Russian emigres flowed through the channels of Gulag. Most were old 
men, who had left at the time of the Revolution, but there were also young people, who had grown 
up outside Russia. They usually dragged off the menfolk and left the women and children where they 
were. It is true that they did not take everyone, but they took all those who, in the course of twenty- 
five years, had expressed even the mildest political views, or who had expressed them earlier, during 
the Revolution. They did not touch those who had lived a purely vegetable existence. The main 
waves came from Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia; there were fewer from Austria and 
Germany. In the other countries of Eastern Europe, there were hardly any Russians. 

As if in response to 1945, a wave of emigres poured from Manchuria too. (Some of them were not 
arrested immediately. Entire families were encouraged to return to the homeland as free persons, but 
once back in Russia they were separated and sent into exile or taken to prison.) 

All during 1945 and 1946 a big wave of genuine, at-long-last, enemies of the Soviet government 
flowed into the Archipelago. 

(These were the Vlasov men, the Krasnov Cossacks, and Moslems from the national units created 
under Hitler.) Some of them had acted out of conviction; others had been merely involuntary 
participants. 

Along with them were seized not less than one million fugitives from the Soviet government — 
civilians of all ages and of both sexes who had been fortunate enough to find shelter on Allied 
territory, but who in 1946-1947 were perfidiously returned by Allied authorities into Soviet hands. 

[It is surprising that in the West, where political secrets cannot be kept long, since they inevitably 
come out in print or are disclosed, the secret of this particular act of betrayal has been very well and 
carefully kept by the British and American governments. This is truly the last secret, or one of the 
last, of the Second World War. Having often encountered these people in camps, I was unable to 
believe for a whole quarter-century that the public in the West knew nothing of this action of the 
Western governments, this massive handing over of ordinary Russian people to retribution and 
death. Not until 1973 — in the Sunday Oklahoman of January 21 — was an article by Julius Epstein 
published. And I am here going to be so bold as to express gratitude on behalf of the mass of those 
who perished and those few left alive. One random little document was published from the many 
volumes of the hitherto concealed case history of forced repatriation to the Soviet Union. "After 



having remained unmolested in British hands for two years, they had allowed themselves to be lulled 
into a false sense of security and they were therefore taken completely by surprise. . . . They did not 
realize they were being re- patriated. . . . They were mainly simple peasants with bitter personal 
grievances against the Bolsheviks." The English authorities gave them the treatment "reserved in the 
case of every other nation for war criminals alone: that of being handed over against their will to 
captors who, incidentally, were not expected to give them a fair trial." They were all sent to 
destruction on the Archipelago. (Author's note, dated 1973.)] 

A certain number of Poles, members of the Home Army, followers of Mikolajczyk, arrived in Gulag 
in 1945 via our prisons. 

There were a certain number of Rumanians and Hungarians. 

At war's end and for many years after, there flowed uninterruptedly an abundant wave of Ukrainian 
nationalists (the "Banderovtsy"). 

Against the background of this enormous postwar displacement of millions, few paid much attention 
to such small waves as: 

• Foreigners' girlfriends (in 1946-1947) — in other words, Soviet girls who went out with foreigners. 
They sentenced these girls under Article 7-35 — SOE — Socially Dangerous Element. 

• Spanish children — the same children who had been taken from their homeland during the Spanish 
Civil War, but who were adults by the end of World War 11. Raised in our boarding schools, they 
nonetheless fitted very poorly into our life. 

Many longed to go "home." They, too, were given 7-35 — SOE — Socially Dangerous Element. And 
those who were particularly stubborn got 58-6 — espionage on behalf of America. 

(In fairness we must not forget the brief reverse wave of priests in 1947. Yes, a miracle! For the first 
time in thirty years they freed priests! They didn't actually go about seeking them out in camps, but 
whenever a priest was known to people in freedom, and whenever a name and exact location could 
be provided, the individual priests in question were sent out to freedom in order to strengthen the 
church, which at that time was being revived.) 

We have to remind our readers once again that this chapter does not attempt by any means to list all 
the waves which fertilized Gulag — but only those which had a political coloration. And just as, in a 
course in physiology, after a detailed description of the circulation of the blood, one can begin over 
again and describe in detail the lymphatic system, one could begin again and describe the waves of 
nonpolitical offenders and habitual criminals from 1918 to 1953. And this description, too, would 
run long. 

It would bring to light many famous decrees, now in part forgotten (even though they have never 
been repealed), which supplied abundant human material for the insatiable Archipelago. One was the 
Decree on Absenteeism. One was the Decree on Production of Bad Quality Goods. Another was on 
samogon [moonshine] distilling. Its peak period was 1922 — but arrests for this were constant 
throughout the twenties. And the Decree on the Punishment of Collective Farmers for Failure to 
Fulfill the Obligatory Norm of Labor Days. And the Decree on the Introduction of Military 
Discipline on Railroads, issued in April, 1943 — not at the beginning of the war, but when it had 
already taken a turn for the better. 

In accordance with the ancient Petrine tradition, these decrees always put in an appearance as the 
most important element in all our legislation, but without any comprehension of or reference to the 
whole of our previous legislation. Learned jurists were supposed to coordinate the branches of the 



law, but they were not particularly energetic at it, nor particularly successful either. 

This steady pulse of decrees led to a curious national pattern of violations and crimes. One could 
easily recognize that neither burglary, nor murder, nor samogon distilling, nor rape ever seemed to 
occur at random intervals or in random places through-out the country as a result of human 
weakness, lust, or failure to control one's passions. By no means! One detected, instead, a surprising 
unanimity and monotony in the crimes committed. The entire Soviet Union would be in a turmoil of 
rape alone, or murder alone, or samogon distilling alone, each in its turn — in sensitive reaction to the 
latest government decree. Each particular crime or violation seemed somehow to be playing into the 
hands of the latest decree so that it would disappear from the scene that much faster! At that precise 
moment, the particular crime which had just been foreseen, and for which wise new legislation had 
just provided stricter punishment, would explode simultaneously everywhere. 

The Decree on the militarization of railroads crowded the military tribunals with the women and 
adolescents who did most of the work on the railroads during the war years and who, having 
received no barracks training beforehand, were those mostly involved in delays and violations. The 
Decree on Failure to Fulfill the Obligatory Norm of Labor Days greatly simplified the procedure for 
removing from the scene those collective farmers who were dissatisfied with receiving for their labor 
mere "labor day" points in the farm account books and wanted produce instead. Whereas previously 
their cases had required a trial, based on the article of the Code relating to "economic 
counterrevolution," now it was enough to produce a collective farm decree confirmed by the District 
Executive Committee. And even then these collective farmers, although they were sent into exile, 
must have been relieved to know that they were not listed as enemies of the people. The obligatory 
norm of "labor days" was different in different areas, the easiest of all being among the peoples of 
the Caucasus — seventy-five "labor days" a year; but despite that, many of them were also sent off to 
Krasnoyarsk Province for eight years. 

As we have said, we are not going to go into a lengthy and lavish examination of the waves of 
nonpolitical offenders and common criminals. But, having reached 1947, we cannot remain silent 
about one of the most grandiose of Stalin's decrees. We have already mentioned the famous law of 
"Seven-Eight" or "Seven-eighths," on the basis of which they arrested people right and left — for 
taking a stalk of grain, a cucumber, two small potatoes, a chip of wood, a spool of thread — all of 
whom got ten years. 

[In the actual documents of the "spool of thread" case, they wrote down "200 meters of sewing 
material." The fact remains that they were ashamed to write "a spool of thread."] 

But the requirements of the times, as Stalin understood them, had changed, and the tenner, which 
had seemed adequate on the eve of a terrible war, seemed now, in the wake of a world-wide 
historical victory, inadequate. And so again, in complete disregard of the Code, and totally 
overlooking the fact that many different articles and decrees on the subject of thefts and robberies 
already existed, on June 4, 1947, a decree was issued which outdid them all. It was instantly 
christened "Four-sixths" by the undismayed prisoners. 

The advantages of the new decree lay first of all in its newness. From the very moment it appeared, a 
torrent of the crimes it specified would be bound to burst forth, thereby providing an abundant wave 
of newly sentenced prisoners. But it offered an even greater advantage in prison terms. If a young 
girl sent into the fields to get a few ears of grain took along two friends for company ("an organized 
gang") or some twelve-year-old youngsters went after cucumbers or apples, they were liable to get 
twenty years in camp. In factories, the maximum sentence was raised to twenty-five years. (This 
sentence, called the quarter, had been introduced a few days earlier to replace the death penalty, 
which had been abolished as a humane act.) 

[And the death penalty itself was kept veiled for a brief period only; the veil was removed, amid a 



show of bared fangs, two and a half years later — in January, 1950.] 

And then, at long last, an ancient shortcoming of the law was corrected. Previously the only failure 
to make a denunciation which qualified as a crime against the state had been in connection with 
political offenses. But now simple failure to report the theft of state or collective farm property 
earned three years of camp or seven years of exile. 

In the years immediately following this decree, whole "divisions" from the countryside and the cities 
were sent off to cultivate the islands of Gulag in place of the natives who had died off there. True, 
these waves were processed through the police and the ordinary courts, and did not clog the channels 
of State Security, which, even without them, were overstrained in the postwar years. 

Stalin's new Une, suggesting that it was necessary, in the wake of the victory over fascism, to jail 
more people more energetically and for longer terms than ever before, had immediate repercussions, 
of course, on political prisoners. 

The year 1948-1949, notable throughout Soviet public life for intensified persecution and vigilance, 
was marked by one tragicomedy hitherto unheard of even in Stalinist antijustice — that of the 

repeaters. 

That is what, in the language of Gulag, they called those still undestroyed unfortunates of 1937 
vintage, who had succeeded in surviving ten impossible, unendurable years, and who in 1947-1948, 
had timidly stepped forth onto the land of freedom . . .worn out, broken in health, but hoping to live 
out in peace what little of their lives remained. But some sort of savage fantasy (or stubborn malice, 
or unsated vengeance) pushed the Victorious Generalissimo into issuing the order to arrest all those 
cripples over again, without any new charges! It was even disadvantageous, both economically and 
politically, to clog the meat grinder with its own refuse. But Stalin issued the order anyway. Here 
was a case in which a historical personality simply behaved capriciously toward historical necessity. 

And so it was necessary to take all of them though they had hardly had a chance to attach themselves 
to new places or new families. They were rounded up with much the same weary indolence they 
themselves now returned with. They knew beforehand the whole way of the cross ahead. They did 
not ask "What for?" And they did not say to their families: "I'll be back." They put on their shabbiest 
rags, poured some makhorka into their camp tobacco pouches, and went off to sign the deposition. 
(Only one question: "Are you the one who was in prison?" "Yes." "Take ten more.") 

At this point the Autocrat decided it wasn't enough to arrest just those who had survived since 1937! 
What about the children of his sworn enemies? They, too, must be imprisoned! They were growing 
up, and they might have notions of vengeance. (He may have had a heavy dinner and had a 
nightmare about those children. ) They went through the lists, looked around, and arrested 
children — but not very many. They arrested the children of the purged army commanders, but not all 
the children of Trotskyites. And so the wave of the vengeful children came into being. 

(Among such children were seventeen-year-old Lena Kosaryeva and thirty-five-year-old Yelena 
Rakovskaya.) 

By 1948, after the great European displacement, Stalin had succeeded once again in tightly 
barricading himself in and pulling the ceiling down closer to him: in this reduced space he had 
recreated the tension of 1937. 

And so in 1948, 1949, and 1950 there flowed past: 

• Alleged spies (ten years earlier they had been German and Japanese, now they were Anglo- 
American). 



• Believers (this wave non-Orthodox for the most part). 

• Those geneticists and plant breeders, disciples of the late Vavilov and of Mendel, who had not 
previously been arrested. 

• Just plain ordinary thinking people (and students, with particular severity) who had not been 
sufficiently scared away from the West. It was fashionable to charge them with: 

• VAT — Praise of American Technology; 

• VAD — Praise of American Democracy; and 

• PZ — Toadyism Toward the West. 

These waves were not unlike those of 1937, but the sentences were different. The standard sentence 
was no longer the patriarchal ten-ruble bill, but the new Stalinist twenty-five. By now the tenner was 
for juveniles. 

There was a good- sized wave from the new Decree on Revealing State Secrets. (State secrets 
included such things as: the district harvest; any figure on epidemics; the type of goods produced by 
any workshop or mini-factory; mention of a civil airport, municipal transport routes, or the family 
name of any prisoner imprisoned in any camp.) For violations of this decree they gave fifteen years. 

The waves of nationalities were not forgotten either. The Ukrainian nationalists, the "Banderovtsy," 
taken in the heat of struggle from the forests where they fought, kept flowing all this time. 
Simultaneously, all West Ukrainian country people received tenners and//ver5 in camps and exile — 
presumably for having had connections with the partisans: someone had let them spend the night; 
someone had once fed them; someone had not reported them. For about a year, starting in 1950, a 
wave of wives of Banderovtsy was under way. They gave them each ten years for failure to make a 
denunciation — so as to finish off their husbands faster. 

By this time resistance in Lithuania and Estonia had already come to an end. But in 1949 new waves 
of new "social prophylaxis" to assure collectivization kept coming. They took whole trainloads of 

city dwellers and peasants from the three Baltic republics into Siberian exile. (The historical rhythm 
was disrupted in these republics: they were forced to recapitulate in brief, limited periods the more 
extended experience of the rest of the country.) 

In 1948 one more nationalist wave went into exile — that of the Greeks who inhabited the areas 
around the Sea of Azov, the Kuban, and Sukhumi. They had done nothing to offend the Father 
during the war, but now he avenged himself on them for his failure in Greece, or so it seemed. This 
wave, too, was evidently the fruit of his personal insanity. The majority of the Greeks ended up in 
Central Asian exile; those who voiced their discontent were thrown into political prisons. 

Around 1950, to avenge the same lost war, or perhaps just to balance those already in exile, the 
Greek rebels from Markos' army, who had been turned over to us by Bulgaria, were themselves 
shipped off to the Archipelago. 

During the last years of Stalin's life, a wave of Jews became noticeable. (From 1950 on they were 
hauled in little by little as cosmopolites. And that was why the doctors' case was cooked up. It would 
appear that Stalin intended to arrange a great massacre of the Jews.) 

[It has always been impossible to learn the truth about anything in our country — now, and always, 
and from the beginning. But, according to Moscow rumors, Stalin's plan was this: At the beginning 
of March the "doctor-murderers" were to be hanged on Red Square. The aroused patriots, spurred on. 



naturally, by instructors, were to rush into an anti- Jewish pogrom. At this point the government — 
and here Stalin's character can be divined, can it not? — would intervene generously to save the Jews 
from the wrath of the people, and that same night would remove them from Moscow to the Far East 
and Siberia — where barracks had already been prepared for them.] 

But this became the first plan of his life to fail. God told him — apparently with the help of human 
hands — to depart from his rib cage. 

The preceding exposition should have made it clear, one would think, that in the removal of millions 
and in the populating of Gulag, consistent, cold-blooded planning and never-weakening persistence 
were at work. 

That we never did have any empty prisons, merely prisons which were full or prisons which were 
very, very overcrowded. 

And that while you occupied yourself to your heart's content studying the safe secrets of the atomic 
nucleus, researching the influence of Heidegger on Sartre, or collecting Picasso reproductions; while 
you rode off in your railroad sleeping compartment to vacation resorts, or finished building your 
country house near Moscow — the Black Marias rolled incessantly through the streets and the 
gaybisty — the State Security men — knocked at doors and rang doorbells. 

And I think this exposition proves that the Organs always earned their pay. 

Chapter 3 

The Interrogation 

If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in 
twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be 
practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human 
being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants 
and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the 
"secret brand"); that a man's genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and 
that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping 
for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov's plays would have 
gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums. 

Yes, not only Chekhov's heroes, but what normal Russian at the beginning of the century, including 
any member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, could have believed, would have 
tolerated, such a slander against the bright future? What had been acceptable under Tsar Aleksei 
Mikhailovich in the seventeenth century, what had already been regarded as barbarism under Peter 
the Great, what might have been used against ten or twenty people in all during the time of Biron in 
the mid-eighteenth century, what had already become totally impossible under Catherine the Great, 
was all being practiced during the flowering of the glorious twentieth century — in a society based on 
socialist principles, and at a time when airplanes were flying and the radio and talking films had 
already appeared — not by one scoundrel alone in one secret place only, but by tens of thousands of 
specially trained human beasts standing over millions of defenseless victims. 

Was it only that explosion of atavism which is now evasively called "the cult of personality" that 
was so horrible? Or was it even more horrible that during those same years, in 1937 itself, we 
celebrated Pushkin's centennial? And that we shamelessly continued to stage those self-same 
Chekhov plays, even though the answers to them had already come in? Is it not still more dreadful 
that we are now being told, thirty years later, "Don't talk about it!"? If we start to recall the sufferings 
of millions, we are told it will distort the historical perspective! If we doggedly seek out the essence 



of our morality, we are told it will darken our material progress! Let's think rather about the blast 
furnaces, the rolling mills that were built, the canals that were dug ... no, better not talk about the 
canals. . . . Then maybe about the gold of the Kolyma? No, maybe we ought not to talk about that 
either. . . . Well, we can talk about anything, so long as we do it adroitly, so long as we glorify it. ... 

It is really hard to see why we condemn the Inquisition. Wasn't it true that beside the autos-da-fe, 
magnificent services were offered the Almighty? It is hard to see why we are so down on serfdom. 
After all, no one forbade the peasants to work every day. And they could sing carols at Christmas 
too. And for Trinity Day the girls wove wreaths. . . . 

The exceptional character which written and oral legend nowadays assigns to the year 1937 is seen 
in the creation of fabricated charges and tortures. But this is untrue, wrong. Throughout the years and 
decades, interrogations under Article 58 were almost never undertaken to elicit the truth, but were 
simply an exercise in an inevitably filthy procedure: someone who had been free only a little while 
before, who was sometimes proud and always unprepared, was to be bent and pushed through a 
narrow pipe where his sides would be torn by iron hooks and where he could not breathe, so that he 
would finally pray to get to the other end. And at the other end, he would be shoved out, an already 
processed native of the Archipelago, already in the promised land. (The fool would keep on 
resisting! He even thought there was a way back out of the pipe.) 

The more time that passes without anything being written about all this, the harder it becomes to 
assemble the scattered testimony of the survivors. But they tell us that the creation of fabricated 
cases began back in the early years of the Organs so their constant salutary activity might be 
perceived as essential. Otherwise, what with a decline in the number of enemies, the Organs might, 
in a bad hour, have been forced to wither away. As the case of Kosyrev makes clear, the situation of 
the Cheka was shaky even at the beginning of 1919. 

[Cf. Part I, Chapter 8, below.] 

Reading the newspapers of 1918, 1 ran into the official report of a terrible plot that had just been 
discovered: A group of ten people wanted to (it seems they only wanted to!) drag cannon onto the 
roof of an orphanage (let's see — how high was it?) and shell the Kremlin. There were ten of them 
(including, perhaps, women and youngsters), and it was not reported how many cannon there were to 
be — nor where the cannon were to come from. Nor what caliber they were. Nor how they were to be 
carried up the stairs to the attic. Nor how they were to be set up, on the steeply sloping roof, and so 
they wouldn't recoil when fired! How was it that the Petersburg police, when they were fighting to 
put down the February Revolution, took nothing heavier than a machine gun up to the roofs? Yet this 
fantasy, exceeding even the fabrications of 1937, was read and believed! Apparently, it will be 
proved to us in time that the Gumilyev case of 1921 was also fabricated. 

[A. A. Akhmatova told me she was convinced that this was so. She even gave me the name of the 
Chekist who cooked up the case — Y. Agranov, it seems.] 

In that same year, 1921, the Ryazan Cheka fabricated a false case of a "plot" on the part of the local 
intelligentsia. But the protests of courageous people could still reach Moscow, and they dropped the 
case. That year, too, the whole Sapropelite Committee, part of the Commission on the Use of Natural 
Forces, was shot. Familiar enough with the attitude and the mood of Russian scientists at that time, 
and not being shut off from those years by a smoke screen of fanaticism, we can, indeed, figure out, 
even without archaeological excavations, the precise validity of that case. 

Here is what Y. Doyarenko remembers about 1921: the Lubyanka reception cell for those newly 
arrested, with forty to fifty trestle beds, and women being brought in one after another all night long. 
None of them knew what she was supposed to be guilty of, and there was a feeling among them that 
people were being arrested for no reason at all. Only one woman in the whole cell knew why she was 



there — she was an SR. The first question asked by Yagoda: "Well, what are you here for?" In other 
words, you tell me, and help me cook up the case! And they say absolutely the same thing about the 
Ryazan GPU in 1930! People all felt they were being imprisoned for no reason. There was so little 

on which to base a charge that they accused I. D. T v of using a false name. (And even though 

his name was perfectly real, they handed him three years via a Special Board — OSO — under 58-10.) 
Not knowing what to pick on, the interrogator asked: "What was your job?" Answer: "A planner." 
The interrogater: "Write me a statement that explains 'planning at the factory and how it is carried 
out.' After that I will let you know why you've been arrested." (He expected the explanation to 
provide the hook on which to hang a charge.) 

Here is the way it went in the case of the Kovno Fortress in 1912: Since the fortress served no useful 
military purpose, it was decided to eliminate it. At that point the fortress command, thoroughly 
alarmed, arranged a "night attack" simply to prove its usefulness and in order to stay where they 
were! 

The theoretical view of the suspect's guilt was, incidentally, quite elastic from the very beginning. In 

his instructions on the use of Red Terror, the Chekist M. 1. Latsis wrote: "In the interrogation do not 
seek evidence and proof that the person accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The 
first questions should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? 
[There is your Sapropelite Committee for you!] These are the questions which must determine the 
fate of the accused." On November 13, 1920, Dzerzhinsky reported in a letter to the Cheka that 
"slanderous declarations are often given the green light" in the Cheka. 

After so many decades have they not taught us that people do not return ^om there? Except for the 
small, brief, intentional reverse wave of 1939, one hears only the rarest, isolated stories of someone 
being turned loose as the result of an interrogation. And in such cases, the person was either 
imprisoned soon again or else he was let out so he could be kept under surveillance. That is how the 
tradition arose that the Organs do not make mistakes. Then what about those who were innocent? 

In his Dictionary of Definitions Dal makes the following distinction: "An inquiry is distinguished 
from an investigation by the fact that it is carried out to determine whether there is a basis for 
proceeding to an investigation." 

On, sacred simplicity! The Organs have never heard of such a thing as an inquiry \ Lists of names 
prepared up above, or an initial suspicion, or a denunciation by an informer, or any anonymous 
denunciation, were all that was needed to bring about the arrest of the suspect, followed by the 
inevitable formal charge. 

[Article 93 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has this to say: "An anonymous declaration can serve 
as reason for beginning a criminal case" ! (And there is no need to be surprised at the word "criminal" 
here, since all "politicals" were considered criminals, too, under the Code.)] 

The time allotted for investigation was not used to unravel the crime but, in ninety-five cases out of a 
hundred, to exhaust, wear down, weaken, and render helpless the defendant, so that he would want it 
to end at any cost. 

As long ago as 1919 the chief method used by the interrogator was a revolver on the desk. That was 
how they investigated not only political but also ordinary misdemeanors and violations. At the trial 
of the Main Fuels Committee (1921), the accused Makhrovskaya complained that at her 
interrogation she had been drugged with cocaine. The prosecutor replied: "If she had declared that 
she had been treated rudely, that they had threatened to shoot her, this might be just barely 
believable. " The frightening revolver lies there and sometimes it is aimed at you, and the interrogator 
doesn't tire himself out thinking up what you are guilty of, but shouts: "Come on, talk! You know 
what about!" That was what the interrogator Khaikin demanded of Skripnikova in 1927. That was 



what they demanded of Vitkovsky in 1929. And twenty-five years later nothing had changed. In 
1952 Anna Skripnikova was undergoing her fifth imprisonment, and Sivakov, Chief of the 
Investigative Department of the Ordzhonikidze State Security Administration, said to her: "The 
prison doctor reports you have a blood pressure of 240/120. That's too low, you bitch! We're going to 
drive it up to 340 so you'll kick the bucket, you viper, and with no black and blue marks; no 
beatings; no broken bones. We'll just not let you sleep." She was in her fifties at the time. And if, 
back in her cell, after a night spent in interrogation, she closed her eyes during the day, the jailer 
broke in and shouted: "Open your eyes or I'll haul you off that cot by the legs and tie you to the wall 
standing up." 

As early as 1921 interrogations usually took place at night. At that time, too, they shone automobile 
lights in the prisoner's face (the Ryazan Cheka — Stelmakh). And at the Lubyanka in 1926 (according 
to the testimony of Berta Gandal) they made use of the hot-air heating system to fill the cell first 
with icy-cold and then with stinking hot air. And there was an airtight cork-lined cell in which there 
was no ventilation and they cooked the prisoners. The poet Klyuyev was apparently confined in such 
a cell and Berta Gandal also. A participant in the Yaroslavl uprising of 1918, Vasily Aleksandrovich 
Kasyanov, described how the heat in such a cell was turned up until your blood began to ooze 
through your pores. When they saw this happening through the peephole, they would put the 
prisoner on a stretcher and take him off to sign his confession. The "hot" and "salty" methods of the 
"gold" period are well known. And in Georgia in 1926 they used lighted cigarettes to burn the hands 
of prisoners under interrogation. In Metekhi Prison they pushed prisoners into a cesspool in the dark. 

There is a very simple connection here. Once it was established that charges had to be brought at any 
cost and despite everything, threats, violence, tortures became inevitable. And the more fantastic the 
charges were, the more ferocious the interrogation had to be in order to force the required 
confession. Given the fact that the cases were always fabricated, violence and torture had to 
accompany them. This was not peculiar to 1937 alone. It was a chronic, general practice. And that is 
why it seems strange today to read in the recollections of former zeks that "torture was permitted 
from the spring of 1938 on." 

[Y. Ginzburg writes that permission for "physical measures of persuasion" was given in April, 1938. 
V. Shalamov believes that tortures were permitted from the middle of 1938 on. The old prisoner M~ 
— ch is convinced that there was an "order to simplify the questioning and to change from 
psychological methods to physical methods." Ivanov-Razumnik singles out the middle of 1938 as the 
"period of the most cruel interrogations."] 

There were never any spiritual or moral barriers which could have held the Organs back from 
torture. In the early postwar years, in the Cheka Weekly, The Red Sword, and Red Terror, the 
admissibility of torture from a Marxist point of view was openly debated. Judging by the subsequent 
course of events, the answer deduced was positive, though not universally so. 

It is more accurate to say that if before 1938 some kind of formal documentation was required as a 
preliminary to torture, as well as specific permission for each case under investigation (even though 
such permission was easy to obtain), then in the years 1937-1938, in view of the extraordinary 
situation prevailing (the specified millions of admissions to the Archipelago had to be ground 
through the apparatus of individual interrogation in specified, limited periods, something which had 
simply not happened in the mass waves of kulaks and nationalities), interrogators were allowed to 
use violence and torture on an unlimited basis, at their own discretion, and in accordance with the 
demands of their work quotas and the amount of time they were given. The types of torture used 
were not regulated and every kind of ingenuity was permitted, no matter what. 

In 1939 such indiscriminate authorization was withdrawn, and once again written permission was 
required for torture, and perhaps it may not have been so easily granted. (Of course, simple threats, 
blackmail, deception, exhaustion through enforced sleeplessness, and punishment cells were never 



prohibited.) Then, from the end of the war and throughout the postwar years, certain categories of 
prisoners were established by decree for whom a broad range of torture was automatically permitted. 
Among these were nationalists, particularly the Ukrainians and the Lithuanians, especially in those 
cases where an underground organization existed (or was suspected) that had to be completely 
uncovered, which meant obtaining the names of everyone involved from those already arrested. For 
example, there were about fifty Lithuanians in the group of Romualdas Skyrius, the son of Pranus. In 
1945 they were charged with posting anti-Soviet leaflets. Because there weren't enough prisons in 
Lithuania at the time, they sent them to a camp near Velsk in Archangel Province. There some were 
tortured and others simply couldn't endure the double regime of work plus interrogation, with the 
result that all fifty, to the very last one, confessed. After a short time news came from Lithuania that 
the real culprits responsible for the leaflets had been discovered, and none of the first group had been 
involved at alUln 1950, at the Kuibyshev Transit Prison, I encountered a Ukrainian from 
Dnepropetrovsk who had been tortured many different ways in an effort to squeeze "contacts" and 
names out of him. Among the tortures to which he had been subjected was a punishment cell in 
which there was room only to stand. They shoved a pole inside for him to hold on to so that he could 
sleep — for four hours a day. After the war, they tortured Corresponding Member of the Academy of 
Sciences Levina because she and the AUiluyevs had acquaintances in common. 

It would also be incorrect to ascribe to 1937 the "discovery" that the personal confession of an 
accused person was more important than any other kind of proof or facts. This concept had already 
been formulated in the twenties. And 1937 was just the year when the brilliant teaching of 
Vyshinsky came into its own. Incidentally, even at that time, his teaching was transmitted only to 
interrogators and prosecutors — for the sake of their morale and steadfastness. The rest of us only 
learned about it twenty years later — when it had already come into disfavor — through subordinate 
clauses and minor paragraphs of newspaper articles, which treated the subject as if it had long been 
widely known to all. 

It turns out that in that terrible year Andrei Yanuaryevich (one longs to blurt out, "Jaguaryevich") 
Vyshinsky, availing himself of the most flexible dialectics (of a sort nowadays not permitted either 
Soviet citizens or electronic calculators, since to them yes is yes and no is no), pointed out in a report 
which became famous in certain circles that it is never possible for mortal men to establish absolute 
truth, but relative truth only. He then proceeded to a further step, which jurists of the last two 
thousand years had not been willing to take: that the truth established by interrogation and trial could 
not be absolute, but only, so to speak, relative. Therefore, when we sign a sentence ordering 
someone to be shot we can never be absolutely certain, but only approximately, in view of certain 
hypotheses, and in a certain sense, that we are punishing a guilty person. 

[Perhaps Vyshinsky, no less than his listeners, needed this ideological comfort at this time. When he 
cried out from the prosecutor's platform: "Shoot them all like mad dogs!" he, at least, who was both 
evil and quick of mind, understood that the accused were innocent. And in all probability he and that 
whale of Marxist dialectics, the defendant Bukharin, devoted themselves with all the greater passion 
to the dialectical elaboration of the judicial lie: for Bukharin it was too stupid and futile to die if he 
was altogether innocent (thus he needed to find his own guilt!); and for Vyshinsky it was more 
agreeable to see himself as a logician than as a plain downright scoundrel. ] 

Thence arose the most practical conclusion: that it was useless to seek absolute evidence — for 
evidence is always relative — or unchallengeable witnesses — for they can say different things at 
different times. The proofs of guilt were relative, approximate, and the interrogator could find them, 
even when there was no evidence and no witness, without leaving his office, "basing his conclusions 
not only on his own intellect but also on his Party sensitivity, his moral forces" (in other words, the 
superiority of someone who has slept well, has been well fed, and has not been beaten up) "and on 
his character" (i.e., his willingness to apply cruelty!). 

Of course, this formulation was much more elegant than Latsis' instructions. But the essence of both 



was the same. 

In only one respect did Vyshinsky fail to be consistent and retreat from dialectical logic: for some 
reason, the executioner's bullet which he allowed was not relative but absolute. . . . 

Thus it was that the conclusions of advanced Soviet jurisprudence, proceeding in a spiral, returned to 
barbaric or medieval standards. Like medieval torturers, our interrogators, prosecutors, and judges 
agreed to accept the confession of the accused as the chief proof of guilt. 

[Compare the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: "Nor shall [any person] be 
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." Not be compelled! (The same thing 
appears in the seventeenth- century Bill of Rights.)] 

However, the simple-minded Middle Ages used dramatic and picturesque methods to squeeze out the 
desired confessions: the rack, the wheel, the bed of nails, impalement, hot coals, etc. In the twentieth 
century, taking advantage of our more highly developed medical knowledge and extensive prison 
experience (and someone seriously defended a doctoral dissertation on this theme), people came to 
realize that the accumulation of such impressive apparatus was superfluous and that, on a mass scale, 
it was also cumbersome. And in addition . . . 

In addition, there was evidently one other circumstance. As always, Stalin did not pronounce that 
final word, and his subordinates had to guess what he wanted. Thus, like a jackal, he left himself an 
escape hole, so that he could, if he wanted, beat a retreat and write about "dizziness from success." 
After all, for the first time in human history the calculated torture of millions was being undertaken, 
and, even with all his strength and power, Stalin could not be absolutely sure of success. In dealing 
with such an enormous mass of material, the effects of the experiment might differ from those 
obtained from a smaller sample. An unforeseen explosion might take place, a slippage in a 
geological fault, or even world-wide disclosure. In any case, Stalin had to remain innocent, his 
sacred vestments angelically pure. 

We are therefore forced to conclude that no list of tortures and torments existed in printed form for 
the guidance of interrogators! Instead, all that was required was for every Interrogation Department 
to supply the tribunal within a specified period with a stipulated number of rabbits who had 
confessed everything. And it was simply stated, orally but often, that any measures and means 
employed were good, since they were being used for a lofty purpose; that no interrogator would be 
made to answer for the death of an accused; and that the prison doctor should interfere as little as 
possible with the course of the investigation. In all probability, they exchanged experiences in 
comradely fashion; "they learned from the most successful workers." Then, too, "material rewards" 
were offered — higher pay for night work, bonus pay for fast work — and there were also definite 
warnings that interrogators who could not cope with their tasks . . . Even the chief of some provincial 
NKVD administration, if some sort of mess developed, could show Stalin his hands were clean: he 
had issued no direct instructions to use torture! But at the same time he had ensured that torture 
would be used! 

Understanding that their superiors were taking precautions for self-protection, some of the rank-and- 
file interrogators — not, however, those who drank like maniacs — tried to start off with milder 
methods, and even when they intensified them, they tried to avoid those that left obvious marks: an 
eye gouged out, an ear torn off, a backbone broken, even bruises all over the body. 

That is why in 1937 we observe no general consistency of methods — except for enforced 
sleeplessness — in the administrations of the various provinces, or for that matter among the different 
interrogators of a single administration. 

[It is common talk that Rostov-on-the-Don and Krasnodar were particularly distinguished for the 



cruelty of their tortures, but this has not been proved.] 

What they did have in common, however, was that they gave precedence to the so-called light 
methods (we will see what they were immediately). This way was sure. Indeed, the actual boundaries 
of human equilibrium are very narrow, and it is not really necessary to use a rack or hot coals to 
drive the average human being out of his mind. 

Let us try to list some of the simplest methods which break the will and the character of the prisoner 
without leaving marks on his body. 

Let us begin with psychological methods. These methods have enormous and even annihilating 
impact on rabbits who have never been prepared for prison suffering. And it isn't easy even for a 
person who holds strong convictions. 

1. First of all: night. Why is it that all the main work of breaking down human souls went on at 
night? Why, from their very earliest years, did the Organs select the night? Because at night, the 
prisoner torn from sleep, even though he has not yet been tortured by sleeplessness, lacks his normal 
daytime equanimity and common sense. He is more vulnerable. 

2. Persuasion in a sincere tone is the very simplest method. Why play at cat and mouse, so to speak? 
After all, having spent some time among others undergoing interrogation, the prisoner has come to 
see what the situation is. And so the interrogator says to him in a lazily friendly way: "Look, you're 
going to get a prison term whatever happens. But if you resist, you'll croak right here in prison, you'll 
lose your health. But if you go to camp, you'll have fresh air and sunlight. ... So why not sign right 
now?" Very logical. And those who agree and sign are smart, if ... if the matter concerns only 
themselves! But that's rarely so. A struggle is inevitable. 

Another variant of persuasion is particularly appropriate to the Party member. "If there are shortages 
and even famine in the country, then you as a Bolshevik have to make up your mind: can you admit 
that the whole Party is to blame? Or the whole Soviet government?" "No, of course not!" the director 
of the flax depot hastened to reply. "Then be brave, and shoulder the blame yourself!" And he did! 

3. Foul language is not a clever method, but it can have a powerful impact on people who are well 
brought up, refined, delicate. I know of two cases involving priests, who capitulated to foul language 
alone. One of them, in the Butyrki in 1944, was being interrogated by a woman. At first when he'd 
come back to our cell he couldn't say often enough how polite she was. But once he came back very 
despondent, and for a long time he refused to tell us how, with her legs crossed high, she had begun 
to curse. (I regret that I cannot cite one of her little phrases here.) 

4. Psychological contrast was sometimes effective: sudden reversals of tone, for example. For a 
whole or part of the interrogation period, the interrogator would be extremely friendly, addressing 
the prisoner formally by first name and patronymic, and promising everything. Suddenly he would 
brandish a paper-weight and shout: "Foo, you rat! I'll put nine grams of lead in your skull!" And he 
would advance on the accused, clutching hands outstretched as if to grab him by the hair, fingernails 
like needles. (This worked very, very well with women prisoners.) 

Or as a variation on this: two interrogators would take turns. One would shout and bully. The other 
would be friendly, almost gentle. Each time the accused entered the office he would tremble — which 
would it be? He wanted to do everything to please the gentle one because of his different manner, 
even to the point of signing and confessing to things that had never happened. 

5. Preliminary humiliation was another approach. In the famous cellars of the Rostov-on-the-Don 

GPU (House 33), which were lit by lenslike insets of thick glass in the sidewalk above the former 
storage basement, prisoners awaiting interrogation were made to lie face down for several hours in 



the main corridor and forbidden to raise their heads or make a sound. They lay this way, like 
Moslems at prayer, until the guard touched a shoulder and took them off to interrogation. Another 

case: At the Lubyanka, Aleksandra O va refused to give the testimony demanded of her. She 

was transferred to Lefortovo. In the admitting office, a woman jailer ordered her to undress, 
allegedly for a medical examination, took away her clothes, and locked her in a "box" naked. At that 
point the men jailers began to peer through the peephole and to appraise her female attributes with 
loud laughs. If one were systematically to question former prisoners, many more such examples 
would certainly emerge. They all had but a single purpose: to dishearten and humiliate. 

6. Any method of inducing extreme confusion in the accused might be employed. Here is how F.I.V. 

from Krasnogorsk, Moscow Province, was interrogated. (This was reported by I. A. P ev.) 

During the interrogation, the interrogator, a woman, undressed in front of him by stages (a 
striptease!), all the time continuing the interrogation as if nothing were going on. She walked about 
the room and came close to him and tried to get him to give in. Perhaps this satisfied some personal 
quirk in her, but it may also have been cold-blooded calculation, an attempt to get the accused so 
muddled that he would sign. And she was in no danger. She had her pistol, and she had her alarm 
bell. 

7. Intimidation was very widely used and very varied. It was often accompanied by enticement and 
by promises which were, of course, false. In 1924: "If you don't confess, you'll go to the Solovetsky 
Islands. Anybody who confesses is turned loose." In 1944: "Which camp you'll be sent to depends on 
us. Camps are different. We've got hard-labor camps now. If you confess, you'll go to an easy camp. 
If you're stubborn, you'll get twenty -five years in handcuffs in the mines!" Another form of 
intimidation was threatening a prisoner with a prison worse than the one he was in. "If you keep on 
being stubborn, we'll send you to Lefortovo" (if you are in the Lubyanka), "to Sukhanovka" (if you 
are at Lefortovo). "They'll find another way to talk to you there." You have already gotten used to 
things where you are; the regimen seems to be not so bad; and what kind of torments await you 
elsewhere? Yes, and you also have to be transported there. . . . Should you give in? 

Intimidation worked beautifully on those who had not yet been arrested but had simply received an 
official summons to the Bolshoi Dom — the Big House. He (or she) still had a lot to lose. He (or she) 
was frightened of everything — that they wouldn't let him (or her) out today, that they would 
confiscate his (or her) belongings or apartment. He would be ready to give all kinds of testimony and 
make all kinds of concessions in order to avoid these dangers. She, of course, would be ignorant of 
the Criminal Code, and, at the very least, at the start of the questioning they would push a sheet of 
paper in front of her with a fake citation from the Code: "I have been warned that for giving false 
testimony . . . five years of imprisonment." (In actual fact, under Article 95, it is two years.) "For 
refusal to give testimony — five years ..." (In actual fact, under Article 92, it is up to three months.) 
Here, then, one more of the interrogator's basic methods has entered the picture and will continue to 
re-enter it. 

8. The lie. We lambs were forbidden to lie, but the interrogator could tell all the lies he felt like. 
Those articles of the law did not apply to him. We had even lost the yardstick with which to gauge: 
what does he get for lying? He could confront us with as many documents as he chose, bearing the 
forged signatures of our kinfolk and friends — and it would be just a skillful interrogation technique. 

Intimidation through enticement and lies was the fundamental method for bringing pressure on the 
relatives of the arrested person when they were called in to give testimony. "If you don't tell us such 
and such" (whatever was being asked), "it's going to be the worse for him. . . . You'll be destroying 
him completely." (How hard for a mother to hear that!) 

[Under the harsh laws of the Tsarist Empire, close relatives could refuse to testify. And even if they 
gave testimony at a preliminary investigation, they could choose to repudiate it and refuse to permit 
it to be used in court. And, curiously enough, kinship or acquaintance with a criminal was never in 



itself considered evidence.] 

"Signing this paper" (pushed in front of the relatives) "is the only way you can save him" (destroy 
him). 

9. Playing on one's affection for those one loved was a game that worked beautifully on the accused 
as well. It was the most effective of all methods of intimidation. One could break even a totally 
fearless person through his concern for those he loved. (Oh, how foresighted was the saying: "A 
man's family are his enemies.") Remember the Tatar who bore his sufferings — his own and those of 
his wife — but could not endure his daughter's! In 1930, Rimalis, a woman interrogator, used to 
threaten: "We'll arrest your daughter and lock her in a cell with syphilitics!" And that was a woman! 

They would threaten to arrest everyone you loved. Sometimes this would be done with sound effects: 
Your wife has already been arrested, but her further fate depends on you. They are questioning her in 
the next room — just listen! And through the wall you can actually hear a woman weeping and 
screaming. (After all, they all sound alike; you're hearing it through a wall; and you're under terrific 
strain and not in a state to play the expert on voice identification. Sometimes they simply play a 
recording of the voice of a "typical wife" — soprano or contralto — a labor-saving device suggested 
by some inventive genius.) And then, without fakery, they actually show her to you through a glass 
door, as she walks along in silence, her head bent in grief. Yes! Your own wife in the corridors of 
State Security! You have destroyed her by your stubbornness! She has already been arrested! (In 
actual fact, she has simply been summoned in connection with some insignificant procedural 
question and sent into the corridor at just the right moment, after being told: "Don't raise your head, 
or you'll be kept here!") Or they give you a letter to read, and the handwriting is exactly like hers: "I 
renounce you! After the filth they have told me about you, I don't need you any more!" (And since 
such wives do exist in our country, and such letters as well, you are left to ponder in your heart: Is 
that the kind of wife she really is?) 

The interrogator Goldman (in 1944) was trying to extort testimony against other people from V. A. 
Korneyeva with the threat: "We'll confiscate your house and toss your old women into the street." A 
woman of deep convictions, and firm in her faith, Korneyeva had no fear whatever for herself. She 
was prepared to suffer. But, given our laws, Goldman's threats were all too real, and she was in 
torment over the fate of her loved ones. When, by morning, after a night of tearing up rejected 
depositions, Goldman began to write a fourth version accusing Korneyeva alone, she signed it 
happily and with a feeling of spiritual victory. We fail to hang on to the basic human instinct to 
prove our innocence when falsely accused. How can we there? We were even glad when we 
succeeded in taking all the guilt on our own shoulders. 

[Today she says: "After eleven years, during rehabilitation proceedings they let me reread those 
'depositions,' and I was gripped by a feeling of spiritual nausea. What was there to be proud of?" I 
myself, during the rehabilitation period, felt the very same way on hearing excerpts from my earlier 
depositions. As the saying goes: They bent me into a bow, and I became someone else. I did not 
recognize myself — how could I have signed them and still think I had not gotten off too badly?] 

Just as there is no classification in nature with rigid boundaries, it is impossible rigidly to separate 
psychological methods from physical ones. Where, for example, should we classify the following 
amusement? 

10. Sound effects: The accused is made to stand twenty to twenty-five feet away and is then forced to 
speak more and more loudly and to repeat everything. This is not easy for someone already 
weakened to the point of exhaustion. Or two megaphones are constructed of roUed-up cardboard, and 
two interrogators, coming close to the prisoner, bellow in both ears: "Confess, you rat!" The prisoner 
is deafened; sometimes he actually loses his sense of hearing. But this method is uneconomical. The 
fact is that the interrogators like some diversion in their monotonous work, and so they vie in 



thinking up new ideas. 



11. Tickling: This is also a diversion. The prisoner's arms and legs are bound or held down, and then 
the inside of his nose is tickled with a feather. The prisoner writhes; it feels as though someone were 
drilling into his brain. 

12. A cigarette is put out on the accused's skin (already mentioned above). 

13. Light effects involve the use of an extremely bright electric light in the small, white-walled cell 
or "box" in which the accused is being held — a light which is never extinguished. (The electricity 
saved by the economies of schoolchildren and house-wives!) Your eyelids become inflamed, which 
is very painful. And then in the interrogation room searchlights are again directed into your eyes. 

14. Here is another imaginative trick: On the eve of May 1, 1933, in the Khabarovsk GPU, for twelve 
hours — all night — Chebotaryev was not interrogated, no, but was simply kept in a continual state of 
being led to interrogation. "Hey, you — hands behind your back!" They led him out of the cell, up the 
stairs quickly, into the interrogator's office. The guard left. But the interrogator, without asking one 
single question, and sometimes without even allowing Chebotaryev to sit down, would pick up the 
telephone: "Take away the prisoner from 107!" And so they came to get him and took him back to 
his cell. No sooner had he lain down on his board bunk than the lock rattled: "Chebotaryev! To 
interrogation. Hands behind your back!" And when he got there: "Take away the prisoner from 107!" 

For that matter, the methods of bringing pressure to bear can begin a long time before the 
interrogator's office. 

15. Prison begins with the box, in other words, what amounts to a closet or packing case. The human 
being who has just been taken from freedom, still in a state of inner turmoil, ready to explain, to 
argue, to struggle, is, when he first sets foot in prison, clapped into a "box," which sometimes has a 
lamp and a place where he can sit down, but which sometimes is dark and constructed in such a way 
that he can only stand up and even then is squeezed against the door. And he is held there for several 
hours, or for half a day, or a day. During those hours he knows absolutely nothing! Will he perhaps 
be confined there all his life? He has never in his life encountered anything like this, and he cannot 
guess at the outcome. Those first hours are passing when everything inside him is still ablaze from 
the unstilled storm in his heart. Some become despondent — and that's the time to subject them to 
their first interrogation. Others become angry — and that, too, is all to the good, for they may insult 
the interrogator right at the start or make a slip, and it will be all the easier to cook up their case. 

16. When boxes were in short supply, they used to have another method. In the Novocherkassk 
NKVD, Yelena Strutinskaya was forced to remain seated on a stool in the corridor for six days in 
such a way that she did not lean against anything, did not sleep, did not fall off, and did not get up 
from it. Six days! Just try to sit that way for six hours! 

Then again, as a variation, the prisoner can be forced to sit on a tall chair, of the kind used in 
laboratories, so that his feet do not reach the floor. They become very numb in this position. He is 
left sitting that way from eight to ten hours. 

Or else, during the interrogation itself, when the prisoner is out in plain view, he can be forced to sit 
in this way: as far forward as possible on the front edge ("Move further forward! Further still!") of 
the chair so that he is under painful pressure during the entire interrogation. He is not allowed to stir 
for several hours. Is that all? Yes, that's all. Just try it yourself! 

17. Depending on local conditions, a divisional pit can be substituted for the box, as was done in the 

Gorokhovets army camps during World War II. The prisoner was pushed into such a pit, ten feet in 
depth, six and a half feet in diameter; and beneath the open sky, rain or shine, this pit was for several 



days both his cell and his latrine. And ten and a half ounces of bread, and water, were lowered to him 
on a cord. Imagine yourself in this situation just after you've been arrested, when you're all in a boil. 

Either identical orders to all Special Branches of the Red Army or else the similarities of their 
situations in the field led to broad use of this method. Thus, in the 36th Motorized Infantry Division, 
a unit which took part in the battle of Khalkhin-Gol, and which was encamped in the Mongolian 
desert in 1941, a newly arrested prisoner was, without explanation, given a spade by Chief of the 
Special Branch Samulyev and ordered to dig a pit the exact dimensions of a grave. (Here is a 
hybridization of physical and psychological methods.) When the prisoner had dug deeper than his 
own waist, they ordered him to stop and sit down on the bottom: his head was no longer visible. One 
guard kept watch over several such pits and it was as though he were surrounded by empty space. 

[This, evidently, is a Mongolian theme. In the magazine Niva (March 15, 1914, p. 218) there is a 
drawing of a Mongolian prison: each prisoner is shut in a separate trunk with a small opening for his 
head or for food. A jailer patrols between the trunks.] 

They kept the accused in this desert with no protection from the Mongolian sun and with no warm 
clothing against the cold of the night, but no tortures — why waste effort on tortures? The ration they 
gave was three and a half ounces of bread per day and one glass of water. Lieutenant Chulpenyev, a 
giant, a boxer, twenty-one years old, spent a month imprisoned this way. Within ten days he was 
swarming with lice. After fifteen days he was summoned to interrogation for the first time. 

18. The accused could be compelled to stand on his knees — not in some figurative sense, but 
literally: on his knees, without sitting back on his heels, and with his back upright. People could be 
compelled to kneel in the interrogator's office or the corridor for twelve, or even twenty-four or 
forty-eight hours. (The interrogator himself could go home, sleep, amuse himself in one way or 
another — this was an organized system; watch was kept over the kneeling prisoner, and the guards 
worked in shifts.) 

[That, after all, is how somebody's career was launched — standing guard over a prisoner on his 
knees. And now, in all probability, that somebody has attained high rank and his children are already 
grown up.] 

What kind of prisoner was most vulnerable to such treatment? One already broken, already inclined 
to surrender. It was also a good method to use with women. Ivanov-Razumnik reports a variation of 
it: Having set young Lordkipanidze on his knees, the interrogator urinated in his face! And what 
happened? Unbroken by anything else, Lordkipanidze was broken by this. Which shows that the 
method also worked well on proud people. . . . 

19. Then there is the method of simply compelling a prisoner to stand there. This can be arranged so 
that the accused stands only while being interrogated — because that, too, exhausts and breaks a 
person down. It can be set up in another way — so that the prisoner sits down during interrogation but 
is forced to stand up between interrogations. (A watch is set over him, and the guards see to it that he 
doesn't lean against the wall, and if he goes to sleep and falls over he is given a kick and straightened 
up.) Sometimes even one day of standing is enough to deprive a person of all his strength and to 
force him to testify to anything at all. 

20. During all these tortures which involved standing for three, four, and five days, they ordinarily 
deprived a person of water. 

The most natural thing of all is to combine the psychological and physical methods. It is also natural 
to combine all the preceding methods with: 

21. Sleeplessness, which they quite failed to appreciate in medieval times. They did not understand 



how narrow are the limits within which a human being can preserve his personality intact. 
Sleeplessness (yes, combined with standing, thirst, bright light, terror, and the unknown — what other 
tortures are needed!?) befogs the reason, undermines the will, and the human being ceases to be 
himself, to be his own "I." (As in Chekhov's "I Want to Sleep," but there it was much easier, for 
there the girl could lie down and slip into lapses of consciousness, which even in just a minute would 
revive and refresh the brain.) A person deprived of sleep acts half -unconsciously or altogether 
unconsciously, so that his testimony cannot be held against him. 

[Just picture a foreigner, who knows no Russian, in this muddled state, being given something to 
sign. Under these conditions the Bavarian Jupp Aschenbrenner signed a document admitting that he 
had worked on wartime gas vans. It was not until 1954, in camp, that he was finally able to prove 
that at the time he had been in Munich, studying to become an electric welder.] 

They used to say: "You are not truthful in your testimony, and therefore you will not be allowed to 
sleep!" Sometimes, as a refinement, instead of making the prisoner stand up, they made him sit down 
on a soft sofa, which made him want to sleep all the more. (The jailer on duty sat next to him on the 
same sofa and kicked him every time his eyes began to shut.) Here is how one victim — who had just 
sat out days in a box infested with bedbugs — describes his feelings after this torture: "Chill from 
great loss of blood. Irises of the eyes dried out as if someone were holding a red-hot iron in front of 
them. Tongue swollen from thirst and prickling as from a hedgehog at the slightest movement. 
Throat racked by spasms of swallowing." 

Sleeplessness was a great form of torture: it left no visible marks and could not provide grounds for 
complaint even if an inspection — something unheard of anyway — were to strike on the morrow. 

[Inspection, by the way, was so totally impossible and had so emphatically never taken place that in 
1953, when real inspectors entered the cell of former Minister of State Security Abakumov, himself 
a prisoner by that time, he roared with laughter, thinking their appearance was a trick intended to 
confuse him.] 

"They didn't let you sleep? Well, after all, this is not supposed to be a vacation resort. The Security 
officials were awake too!" (They would catch up on their sleep during the day.) One can say that 
sleeplessness became the universal method in the Organs. From being one among many tortures, it 
became an integral part of the system of State Security; it was the cheapest possible method and did 
not require the posting of sentries. In all the interrogation prisons the prisoners were forbidden to 
sleep even one minute from reveille till taps. (In Sukhanovka and several other prisons used 
specifically for interrogation, the cot was folded into the wall during the day; in others, the prisoners 
were simply forbidden to lie down, and even to close their eyes while seated.) Since the major 
interrogations were all conducted at night, it was automatic: whoever was undergoing interrogation 
got no sleep for at least five days and nights. (Saturday and Sunday nights, the interrogators 
themselves tried to get some rest.) 

22. The above method was further implemented by an assembly line of interrogators. Not only were 
you not allowed to sleep, but for three or four days shifts of interrogators kept up a continuous 
interrogation. 

23. The bedbug-infested box has already been mentioned. In the dark closet made of wooden planks, 
there were hundreds, maybe even thousands, of bedbugs, which had been allowed to multiply. The 
guards removed the prisoner's jacket or field shirt, and immediately the hungry bedbugs assaulted 
him, crawling onto him from the walls or falling off the ceiling. At first he waged war with them 
strenuously, crushing them on his body and on the walls, suffocated by their stink. But after several 
hours he weakened and let them drink his blood without a murmur. 

24. Punishment cells. No matter how hard it was in the ordinary cell, the punishment cells were 



always worse. And on return from there the ordinary cell always seemed like paradise. In the 
punishment cell a human being was systematically worn down by starvation and also, usually, by 
cold. (In Sukhanovka Prison there were also hot punishment cells.) For example, the Lefortovo 
punishment cells were entirely unheated. There were radiators in the corridor only, and in this 
"heated" corridor the guards on duty walked in felt boots and padded jackets. The prisoner was 
forced to undress down to his underwear, and sometimes to his undershorts, and he was forced to 
spend from three to five days in the punishment cell without moving (since it was so confining). He 
received hot gruel on the third day only. For the first few minutes you were convinced you'd not be 
able to last an hour. But, by some miracle, a human being would indeed sit out his five days, perhaps 
acquiring in the course of it an illness that would last him the rest of his life. 

There were various aspects to punishment cells — as, for instance, dampness and water. In the 

Chernovtsy Prison after the war, Masha G. was kept barefooted for two hours and up to her ankles in 
icy water — confess! (She was eighteen years old, and how she feared for her feet! She was going to 
have to live with them a long time.) 

25. Should one consider it a variation of the punishment cell when a prisoner was locked in an 
alcove? As long ago as 1933 this was one of the ways they tortured S. A. Chebotaryev in the 
Khabarovsk GPU. They locked him naked in a concrete alcove in such a way that he could neither 
bend his knees, nor straighten up and change the position of his arms, nor turn his head. And that 
was not all! They began to drip cold water onto his scalp — a classic torture — which then ran down 
his body in rivulets. They did not inform him, of course, that this would go on for only twenty -four 
hours. It was awful enough at any rate for him to lose consciousness, and he was discovered the next 
day apparently dead. He came to on a hospital cot. They had brought him out of his faint with spirits 
of ammonia, caffeine, and body massage. At first he had no recollection of where he had been, or 
what had happened. For a whole month he was useless even for interrogation. (We may be so bold as 
to assume that this alcove and dripping device had not been devised for Chebotaryev alone. In 1949 
my Dnepropetrovsk acquaintance had been similarly confined, without the dripping attachment, 
however. On a line joining Khabarovsk and Dnepropetrovsk, and over a period of sixteen years, 
were there not other such points as well?) 

26. Starvation has already been mentioned in combination with other methods. Nor was it an unusual 
method: to starve the prisoner into confession. Actually, the starvation technique, like interrogation 
at night, was an integral element in the entire system of coercion. The miserly prison bread ration, 
amounting to ten and a half ounces in the peacetime year of 1933, and to one pound in 1945 in the 
Lubyanka, and permitting or prohibiting food parcels from one's family and access to the 
commissary, were universally applied to everyone. But there was also the technique of intensified 
hunger: for example, Chulpenyev was kept for a month on three and a half ounces of bread, after 
which — when he had just been brought in from the pit — the interrogator Sokol placed in front of him 
a pot of thick borscht, and half a loaf of white bread sliced diagonally. (What does it matter, one 
might ask, how it was sliced? But Chulpenyev even today will insist that it was really sliced very 
attractively.) However, he was not given a thing to eat. How ancient it all is, how medieval, how 
primitive! The only thing new about it was that it was applied in a socialist society! Others, too, tell 
about such tricks. They were often tried. But we are going to cite another case involving 
Chebotaryev because it combined so many methods. They put him in the interrogator's office for 
seventy-two hours, and the only thing he was allowed was to be taken to the toilet. For the rest, they 
allowed him neither food nor drink — even though there was water in a carafe right next to him. Nor 
was he permitted to sleep. Throughout there were three interrogators in the office, working in shifts. 
One kept writing something — silently, without disturbing the prisoner. The second slept on the sofa, 
and the third walked around the room, and as soon as Chebotaryev fell asleep, beat him instantly. 
Then they switched roles. (Maybe they themselves were being punished for failure to deliver.) And 
then, all of a sudden, they brought Chebotaryev a meal: fat Ukrainian borscht, a chop, fried potatoes, 
and red wine in a crystal carafe. But because Chebotaryev had had an aversion to alcohol all his life, 
he refused to drink the wine, and the interrogator couldn't go too far in forcing him to, because that 



would have spoiled the whole game. After he had eaten, they said to him: "Now here's what you 
have testified to in the presence of two witnesses. Sign here." In other words, he was to sign what had 
been silently composed by one interrogator in the presence of another, who had been asleep, and a 
third, who had been actively working. On the very first page Chebotaryev learned he had been on 
intimate terms with all the leading Japanese generals and that he had received espionage assignments 
from all of them. He began to cross out whole pages. They beat him up and threw him out. Blaginin, 
another Chinese Eastern Railroad man, arrested with him, was put through the same thing; but he 
drank the wine and, in a state of pleasant intoxication, signed the confession — and was shot. (Even 
one tiny glass can have an enormous effect on a famished man — and that was a whole carafe.) 

27. Beatings — of a kind that leave no marks. They use rubber truncheons, and they use wooden 
mallets and small sandbags. It is very, very painful when they hit a bone — for example, an 
interrogator's jackboot on the shin, where the bone lies just beneath the skin. They beat Brigade 
Commander Karpunich-Braven for twenty-one days in a row. And today he says: "Even after thirty 
years all my bones ache — and my head too." In recollecting his own experience and the stories of 
others, he counts up to fifty-two methods of torture. Here is one: They grip the hand in a special vise 
so that the prisoner's palm lies flat on the desk — and then they hit the joints with the thin edge of a 
ruler. And one screams! Should we single out particularly the technique by which teeth are knocked 
out? They knocked out eight of Karpunich's. 

[In the case of the Secretary of the Karelian Provincial Party Committee, G. Kupriyanov, arrested in 
1949, some of the teeth they knocked out were just ordinary ones, of no particular account, but 
others were gold. At first they gave him a receipt that said his gold teeth were being kept for him. 
And then they caught themselves just in time and took away his receipt.] 

As everyone knows, a blow of the fist in the solar plexus, catching the victim in the middle of a 
breath, leaves no mark whatever. The Lefortovo Colonel Sidorov, in the postwar period, used to take 
a "penalty kick" with his overshoes at the dangling genitals of male prisoners. Soccer players who at 
one time or another have been hit in the groin by a ball know what that kind of blow is like. There is 
no pain comparable to it, and ordinarily the recipient loses consciousness. 

[In 1918 the Moscow Revolutionary Tribunal convicted the former Tsarist jailer Bondar. The most 
extreme measure of his cruelty that was cited was the accusation that "in one case he had struck a 
political prisoner with such force that his eardrum had burst." (Krylenko, op. cit., p. 16.)] 

28. In the Novorossisk NKVD they invented a machine for squeezing fingernails. As a result it could 
be observed later at transit prisons that many of those from Novorossisk had lost their fingernails. 

29. And what about the strait jacket? 

30. And breaking the prisoner's back? (As in that same Khabarovsk GPU in 1933.) 

31. Or bridling (also known as "the swan dive")? This was a Sukhanovka method — also used in 
Archangel, where the interrogator Ivkov applied it in 1940. A long piece of rough toweling was 
inserted between the prisoner's jaws like a bridle; the ends were then pulled back over his shoulders 
and tied to his heels. Just try lying on your stomach like a wheel, with your spine breaking — and 
without water and food for two days ! 

Is it necessary to go on with the list? Is there much left to enumerate? What won't idle, well-fed, 
unfeeling people invent? 

Brother mine! Do not condemn those who, finding themselves in such a situation, turned out to be 
weak and confessed to more than they should have. ... Do not be the first to cast a stone at them. 



But here's the point! Neither these methods nor even the "lightest" methods of all are needed to 
wring testimony from the majority ... for iron jaws to grip lambs who are unprepared and longing to 
return to their warm hearths. The relationship of forces to situations is too unequal. 

Oh, in how new a light does our past life appear when re-examined in the interrogator's office: 
abounding in dangers, like an African jungle. And we had considered it so simple! 

You, A, and your friend, B, have known each other for years and have complete faith in one another. 
When you met, you spoke out boldly about political matters large and small. No one else was 
present. There was no one who could have overheard you. And you have not denounced each 
other — not at all. 

But at this point, for some reason, you. A, have been marked, hauled out of the herd by the ears, and 
arrested. And for some reason — well, maybe not without a denunciation on somebody's part, and not 
without your apprehensions as to the fate of your loved ones, and not without a certain lack of sleep, 
and not without a bit of punishment cell — you have decided to write yourself off but at the same time 
not to betray anyone else at any price. 

You have therefore confessed in four depositions, and signed them — declaring yourself to be a 
sworn enemy of Soviet power — because you used to tell jokes about the Leader, because you 
thought there should be a choice of candidates at elections, because you went into the voting booth 
only in order to cross out the name of the only candidate and would have done so except there was 
no ink in the inkwell, and because there was a 16-meter band on your radio on which you tried to 
catch parts of Western broadcasts through the jamming. Your own tenner has been assured, yet your 
ribs have remained whole, and so far you have not caught pneumonia. You have not sold anyone out; 
and it seems to you that you have worked things out sensibly. You have already informed your 
cellmates that in your opinion your interrogation is probably coming to an end. 

But lo and behold! Admiring his own handwriting, and with deliberation, the interrogator begins to 
fill out deposition No. 5. Question: Were you friendly with B? Answer: Yes. Question: Were you 
frank with him about politics? Answer: No, no, I did not trust him. Question: But you met often? 
Answer: Not very. Question: What does that mean, not very? According to testimony from your 
neighbors, he was at your house on such and such a day, and on such and such, and on such and such 
just in the past month. Was he? Answer: Maybe. Question: And it was observed that on these 
occasions, as always, you did not drink, you did not make any noise, you spoke very quietly, and you 
couldn't be overheard even in the corridor? (Well, friends, drink up! Break bottles! Curse at the top 
of your lungs! On that basis you will be considered reliable.) Answer: Well, what of it? Question: 
And you used to visit him too. And you said to him on the phone, for example: "We spent such an 
interesting evening." Then they saw you on the street at an intersection. You were standing there 
together in the cold for half an hour, and you both had gloomy faces and dissatisfied expressions; in 
fact, they even took photographs of you during that meeting. (The technological resources of agents, 
my friends, the technology of agents!) So what did you talk about during these meetings? 

What about? That's a leading question! Your first idea is to say that you've forgotten what you talked 
about. Are you really obliged to remember? So! You've forgotten your first conversation. And the 
second one too? And the third? And even your interesting evening? And that time at the intersection? 
And your conversations with C? And your conversations with D? No, you think: "I forgot" is not the 
way out; you will be unable to maintain that position. And your mind, still shocked by your arrest, in 
the grip of fear, muddled by sleeplessness and hunger, seeks a way out: how to play it shrewdly in a 
manner that will have some verisimilitude and outsmart the interrogator. 

What about? It is fine if you talked about hockey — that, friends, is in all cases the least troublesome! 
Or about women, or even about science. Then you can repeat what was said. (Science is not too far 
removed from hockey, but in our time everything to do with science is classified information and 



they may get you for a violation of the Decree on Revealing State Secrets.) But what if you did in 
actual fact talk about the latest arrests in the city? Or about the collective farms? (Of course, 
critically — for who has anything good to say about them?) Or about reducing the rate of pay for 
piecework? The fact remains that you frowned for half an hour at the intersection — what were you 
talking about there? 

Maybe B has already been arrested. The interrogator assures you that he has been, and that he has 
already given evidence against you, and that they are about to bring him in for a confrontation with 
you. Maybe he is sitting home very calmly and quietly, but they might very well bring him in for 
questioning and then they will find out from him what you were frowning about for half an hour at 
that intersection. 

At this point, too late, you have come to understand that, because of the way life is, you and he ought 
to have reached an agreement every time you parted and remembered clearly what you were going to 
say if you were asked what you had talked about that day. Then, regardless of interrogations, your 
testimony and his would agree. But you had not made any such agreement. You had unfortunately 
not understood what kind of a jungle you lived in. 

Should you say that you were talking about going on a fishing trip? But then B might say that there 
was never any discussion of fishing, that you talked about correspondence-school courses. In that 
case, instead of causing the investigation to ease up a bit, you would only tie the noose tighter: what 
about, what about, what about? 

And the idea flashes through your mind — is it a brilliant or a fatal one? — that you ought to come as 

close as you can to the truth of what was actually said — of course rounding off the sharp edges and 
skipping the dangerous parts. After all, people say that when you lie you should always stay as close 
to the truth as possible. And maybe B will guess what's up and say approximately the same thing and 
then your testimony will coincide in some respects and they will leave you in peace. 

Many years later you will come to understand that this was not really a wise idea, and that it is much 
smarter to play the role of someone so improbably imbecile that he can't remember one single day of 
his life even at the risk of being beaten. But you have been kept awake for three days. You have 
hardly strength enough to follow the course of your own thoughts and to maintain an imperturbable 
expression. And you don't have even a minute to think things over. Suddenly two interrogators — for 
they enjoy visiting one another — are at you: What were you talking about? What about? What 
about? 

And you testify: We were talking about collective farms — to the effect that not everything had as yet 
been set to rights on them but it soon would be. We talked about the lowering of piece rates. . . . And 
what in particular did you say about them? That you were delighted they had been reduced? But that 
wasn't the way people normally talked — it was too implausible. And so as to make it seem an 
altogether believable conversation, you concede that you complained just a little that they were 
putting on the squeeze a bit with piece rates. 

The interrogator writes down the deposition himself, translating it into his own language: At this 
meeting we slandered Party and government policy in the field of wages. 

And someday B is going to accuse you: "Oh, you blabbermouth, and I said we were making plans to 
go fishing." 

But you tried to outsmart your interrogator! You have a quick, abstruse mind. You are an 
intellectual! And you outsmarted yourself. . . . 

In Crime and Punishment, Porfiri Petrovich makes a surprisingly astute remark to Raskolnikov, to 



the effect that he could have been found out only by someone who had himself gone through that 
same cat-and-mouse game — implying, so to speak: "1 don't even have to construct my own version 
with you intellectuals. You will put it together yourselves and bring it to me all wrapped up." Yes, 
that's so! An intellectual cannot reply with the delightful incoherence of Chekhov's "Malefactor." He 
is bound to try to build up in logical form the whole story he is being accused of, no matter how 
much falsehood it contains. 

But the interrogator-butcher isn't interested in logic; he just wants to catch two or three phrases. He 
knows what he wants. And as for us — we are totally unprepared for anything. 

From childhood on we are educated and trained — for our own profession; for our civil duties; for 
military service; to take care of our bodily needs; to behave well; even to appreciate beauty (well, 
this last not really all that much!). But neither our education, nor our upbringing, nor our experience 
prepares us in the slightest for the greatest trial of our lives: being arrested for nothing and 
interrogated about nothing. Novels, plays, films (their authors should themselves be forced to drink 
the cup of Gulag to the bottom!) depict the types one meets in the offices of interrogators as 
chivalrous guardians of truth and humanitarianism, as our loving fathers. We are exposed to lectures 
on everything under the sun — and are even herded in to listen to them. But no one is going to lecture 
to us about the true and extended significance of the Criminal Code; and the codes themselves are 
not on open shelves in our libraries, nor sold at newsstands; nor do they fall into the hands of the 
heedless young. 

It seems a virtual fairy tale that somewhere, at the ends of the earth, an accused person can avail 
himself of a lawyer's help. This means having beside you in the most difficult moment of your life a 
clear-minded ally who knows the law. 

The principle of our interrogation consists further in depriving the accused of even a knowledge of 
the law. 

An indictment is presented. And here, incidentally, is how it's presented: "Sign it." "It's not true." 
"Sign." "But I'm not guilty of anything!" It turns out that you are being indicted under the provisions 
of Articles 58-10. Part 2, and 58-11 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Republic. "Sign!" "But what 
do these sections say? Let me read the Code!" "I don't have it." "Well, get it from your department 
head!" "He doesn't have it either. Sign!" "But I want to see it." "You are not supposed to see it. It 
isn't written for you but for us. You don't need it. I'll tell you what it says: these sections spell out 
exactly what you are guilty of. And anyway, at this point your signature doesn't mean that you agree 
with the indictment but that you've read it, that it's been presented to you." 

All of a sudden, a new combination of letters, UPK, flashes by on one of the pieces of paper. Your 
sense of caution is aroused. What's the difference between the UPK and the UK — ^the Criminal 
Code? If you've been lucky enough to catch the interrogator when he is in a good mood, he will 
explain it to you: the UPK is the Code of Criminal Procedure. What? This means that there are two 
distinct codes, not just one, of whose contents you are completely ignorant even as you are being 
trampled under their provisions. 

Since that time ten years have passed; then fifteen. The grass has grown thick over the grave of my 
youth. I served out my term and even "eternal exile" as well. And nowhere — neither in the "cultural 
education" sections of the camps, nor in district libraries, nor even in medium-sized cities, have I 
seen with my own eyes, held in my own hands, been able to buy, obtain, or even ask for the Code of 
Soviet law! 

[Those familiar with our atmosphere of suspicion will understand why it was impossible to ask for 
the Code in a people's court or in the District Executive Committee. Your interest in the Code would 
be an extraordinary phenomenon: you must either be preparing to commit a crime or be trying to 



cover your tracks.] 

And of the hundreds of prisoners I knew who had gone through interrogation and trial, and more 
than once too, who had served sentences in camp and in exile, none had ever seen the Code or held it 
in his hand! 

It was only when both codes were thirty-five years old and on the point of being replaced by new 
ones that I saw them, two little paperback brothers, the UK or Criminal Code, and the UPK or Code 
of Criminal Procedure, on a newsstand in the Moscow subway (because they were outdated, it had 
been decided to release them for general circulation). 

I read them today touched with emotion. For example, the UPK — the Code of Criminal Procedure: 

"Article 136: The interrogator does not have the right to extract testimony or a confession from an 
accused by means of compulsion and threats." (It was as though they had foreseen it!) 

"Article 111: The interrogator is obliged to establish clearly all the relevant facts, both those tending 
toward acquittal and any which might lessen the accused's measure of guilt." 

But it was I who helped establish Soviet power in October! It was I who shot Kolchak! I took part in 
the dispossession of the kulaks! I saved the state ten million rubles in lowered production costs! I 
was wounded twice in the war! I have three orders and decorations. 

"You're not being tried for that!" History ... the bared teeth of the interrogator: "Whatever good you 
may have done has nothing to do with the case." 

"Article 139: The accused has the right to set forth his testimony in his own hand, and to demand the 
right to make corrections in the deposition written by the interrogator." 

Oh, if we had only known that in time! But what I should say is: If that were only the way it really 
was! We were always vainly imploring the interrogator not to write "my repulsive, slanderous 
fabrications" instead of "my mistaken statements," or not to write "our underground weapons 
arsenal" instead of "my rusty Finnish knife." 

If only the defendants had first been taught some prison science! If only interrogation had been run 
through first in rehearsal, and only afterward for real. . . . They didn't, after all, play that 
interrogation game with the second-termers of 1948: it would have gotten them nowhere. But 
newcomers had no experience, no knowledge! And there was no one from whom to seek advice. 

The loneliness of the accused! That was one more factor in the success of unjust interrogation! The 
entire apparatus threw its full weight on one lonely and inhibited will. From the moment of his arrest 
and throughout the entire shock period of the interrogation the prisoner was, ideally, to be kept 
entirely alone. In his cell, in the corridor, on the stairs, in the offices, he was not supposed to 
encounter others like himself, in order to avoid the risk of his gleaning a bit of sympathy, advice, 
support from someone's smile or glance. The Organs did everything to blot out for him his future 
and distort his present: to lead him to believe that his friends and family had all been arrested and 
that material proof of his guilt had been found. It was their habit to exaggerate their power to destroy 
him and those he loved as well as their authority to pardon (which the Organs didn't even have). 
They pretended that there was some connection between the sincerity of a prisoner's "repentance" 
and a reduction in his sentence or an easing of the camp regimen. (No such connection ever existed.) 
While the prisoner was still in a state of shock and torment and totally beside himself, they tried to 
get from him very quickly as many irreparably damaging items of evidence as possible and to 
implicate with him as many totally innocent persons as possible. Some defendants became so 
depressed in these circumstances that they even asked not to have the depositions read to them. They 



could not stand hearing them. They asked merely to be allowed to sign them, just to sign and get it 
over with. Only after all this was over would the prisoner be released from solitary into a large cell, 
where, in belated desperation, he would discover and count over his mistakes one by one. 

How was it possible not to make mistakes in such a duel? Who could have failed to make a mistake? 

We said that "ideally he was to be kept alone." However, in the overcrowded prisons of 1937, and, 
for that matter, of 1945 as well, this ideal of solitary confinement for a newly arrested defendant 
could not be attained. Almost from his first hours, the prisoner was in fact in a terribly overcrowded 
common cell. 

But there were virtues to this arrangement, too, which more than made up for its flaws. The 
overcrowding of the cells not only took the place of the tightly confined solitary "box" but also 
assumed the character of a first-class torture in itself . . . one that was particularly useful because it 
continued for whole days and weeks — with no effort on the part of the interrogators. The prisoners 
tortured the prisoners! The jailers pushed so many prisoners into the cell that not every one had even 
a piece of floor; some were sitting on others' feet, and people walked on people and couldn't even 
move about at all. Thus, in the Kishinev KPZ's — Cells for Preliminary Detention — in 1945, they 
pushed eighteen prisoners into a cell designed for the solitary confinement of one person; in Lugansk 
in 1937 it was fifteen. 

[And the interrogation there lasted eight to ten months at a time. "Maybe Klim [Voroshilov] had one 
of thes; to himself," said the fellows there. (Was he, in fact, ever imprisoned?)] 

And in 1938 Ivanov-Razumnik found one hundred forty prisoners in a standard Butyrki cell intended 
for twenty-five — with toilets so overburdened that prisoners were taken to the toilet only once a day, 
sometimes at night; and the same thing was true of their outdoor walk as well. 

[That same year in the Butyrki, those newly arrested, who had already been processed through the 
bath and the boxes, sat on the stairs for several days at a stretch, waiting for departing prisoner 

transports to leave and release space in the cells. T v had been imprisoned in the Butyrki seven 

years earlier, in 1931, and says that it was overcrowded under the bunks and that prisoners lay on the 
asphalt floor. I myself was imprisoned seven years later, in 1945, and it was just the same. But 

recently I received from M. K. B ch valuable personal testimony about overcrowding in the 

Butyrki in 1918. In October of that year — during the second month of the Red Terror — it was so full 
that they even set up a cell for seventy women in the laundry. When, then, was the Butj^ki not 
crowded?] 

It was Ivanov-Razumnik who in the Lubyanka reception "kennel" calculated that for weeks at a time 
there were three persons for each square yard of floor space (just as an experiment, try to fit three 
people into that space!) . 

[But this, too, is no miracle: in the Vladimir Internal Prison in 1948, thirty people had to stand in a 
cell ten feet by ten feet in size! (S. Potapov.)] 

In this "kennel" there was neither ventilation nor a window, and the prison- ers' body heat and 
breathing raised the temperature to 40 or 45 degrees Centigrade — 104 to 1 13 degrees Fahrenheit — 
and everyone sat there in undershorts with their winter clothing piled beneath them. Their naked 
bodies were pressed against one another, and they got eczema from one another's sweat. They sat 
like that for weeks at a time, and were given neither fresh air nor water — except for gruel and tea in 
the morning. 

[By and large there is a good deal in Ivanov-Razumnik's book that is superficial and personal, and 
there are many exhaustingly monotonous jokes. But the real life of the cells in the 1937-1938 period 



is very well described there.] 

And if at the same time the latrine bucket replaced all other types of toilet (or if, on the other hand, 
there was no latrine bucket for use between trips to an outside toilet, as was the case in several 
Siberian prisons); and if four people ate from one bowl, sitting on each other's knees; and if someone 
was hauled out for interrogation, and then someone else was pushed in beaten up, sleepless, and 
broken; and if the appearance of such broken men was more persuasive than any threats on the part 
of the interrogators; and if, by then, death and any camp whatever seemed easier to a prisoner who 
had been left unsummoned for months than his tormented current situation — perhaps this really did 
replace the theoretically ideal isolation in solitary. And you could not always decide in such a 
porridge of people with whom to be forthright; and you could not always find someone from whom 
to seek advice. And you would believe in the tortures and beatings not when the interrogator 
threatened you with them but when you saw their results on other prisoners. 

You could learn from those who had suffered that they could give you a salt-water douche in the 
throat and then leave you in a box for a day tormented by thirst (Karpunich). Or that they might 
scrape the skin off a man's back with a grater till it bled and then oil it with turpentine. (Brigade 
Commander Rudolf Pintsov underwent both treatments. In addition, they pushed needles under his 
nails, and poured water into him to the bursting point — demanding that he confess to having wanted 
to turn his brigade of tanks against the government during the November parade.) 

[In actual fact, he did lead his brigade at the parade, but for some reason he did not turn it against the 
government. But this was not taken into account. However, after these most varied tortures, he was 
sentenced to ten years by the OSO. To that degree, the gendarmes themselves had no faith in their 
achievements.] 

And from Aleksandrov, the former head of the Arts Section of the AU-Union Society for Cultural 
Relations with Foreign Countries, who has a broken spinal column which tilts to one side, and who 
cannot control his tear ducts and thus cannot stop crying, one can learn how Abakumov himself could 
beat— in 1948. 

Yes, yes. Minister of State Security Abakumov himself did not by any means spurn such menial 
labor. (A Suvorov at the head of his troops !) He was not averse to taking a rubber truncheon in his 
hands every once in a while. And his deputy Ryumin was even more willing. He did this at 
Sukhanovka in the "Generals' " interrogation office. The office had imitation-walnut paneling on the 
walls, silk portieres at the windows and doors, and a great Persian carpet on the floor. In order not to 
spoil all this beauty, a dirty runner bespattered with blood was rolled out on top of the carpet when a 
prisoner was being beaten. When Ryumin was doing the beating, he was assisted not by some 
ordinary guard but by a colonel. "And so," said Ryumin politely, stroking his rubber truncheon, 
which was four centimeters — an inch and a half — thick, "you have survived trial by sleeplessness 
with honor." (Alexander D. had cleverly managed to last a month "without sleep" by sleeping while 
he was standing up.) "So now we will try the club. Prisoners can't take more than two or three 
sessions of this. Let down your trousers and lie down on the runner." The colonel sat down on the 
prisoner's back. A.D. was going to count the blows. He didn't yet know about a blow from a rubber 
truncheon on the sciatic nerve when the buttocks have disappeared as a consequence of prolonged 
starvation. The effect is not felt in the place where the blow is delivered — it explodes inside the 
head. After the first blow the victim was mad with pain and broke his nails on the carpet. Ryumin 
beat away, trying to hit accurately. The colonel pressed down on A.D.'s torso — this was just the right 
sort of work for three big shoulder-board stars, assisting the all-powerful Ryumin! (After the beating 
the prisoner could not walk and, of course, was not carried. They just dragged him along the floor. 
What was left of his buttocks was soon so swollen that he could not button his trousers, and yet there 
were practically no scars. He was hit by a violent case of diarrhea, and, sitting there on the latrine 
bucket in solitary, A.D. guffawed. He went through a second and a third session, and his skin 
cracked, and Ryumin went wild, and started to beat him on the stomach, breaking through the 



intestinal wall and creating an enormous hernia tlirougli wliicli A.D.'s intestines protruded. The 
prisoner was taken off to the Butyrki hospital with a case of peritonitis, and for the time being their 
attempts to compel him to commit a foul deed were suspended.) 

That is how they can torture you too! After that it could seem a simple fatherly caress when the 
Kishinev interrogator Danilov beat Father Viktor Shipovalnikov across the back of the head with a 
poker and pulled him by his long hair. (It is very convenient to drag a priest around in that fashion; 
ordinary laymen can be dragged by the beard from one comer of the office to the other. And Richard 
Ohola — a Finnish Red Guard, and a participant in the capture of British agent Sidney Reilly, and 
commander of a company during the suppression of the Kronstadt revolt — was lifted up with pliers 
first by one end of his great mustaches and then by the other, and held for ten minutes with his feet 
off the floor.) 

But the most awful thing they can do with you is this: undress you from the waist down, place you 
on your back on the floor, pull your legs apart, seat assistants on them (from the glorious corps of 
sergeants!) who also hold down your arms; and then the interrogator (and women interrogators have 
not shrunk from this) stands between your legs and with the toe of his boot (or of her shoe) 
gradually, steadily, and with ever greater pressure crushes against the floor those organs which once 
made you a man. He looks into your eyes and repeats and repeats his questions or the betrayal he is 
urging on you. If he does not press down too quickly or just a shade too powerfully, you still have 
fifteen seconds left in which to scream that you will confess to everything, that you are ready to see 
arrested all twenty of those people he's been demanding of you, or that you will slander in the 
newspapers everything you hold holy. . . . 

And may you be judged by God, but not by people. . . . 

"There is no way out! You have to confess to everything!" whisper the stoolies who have been 
planted in the cell. 

"It's a simple question: hang onto your health!" say people with common sense. 
"You can't get new teeth," those who have already lost them nod at you. 

"They are going to convict you in any case, whether you confess or whether you don't," conclude 
those who have got to the bottom of things. 

"Those who don't sign get shot!" prophesies someone else in the comer. "Out of vengeance! So as 
not to risk any leaks about how they conduct interrogations." 

"And if you die in the interrogator's office, they'll tell your relatives you've been sentenced to camp 
without the right of correspondence. And then just let them look for you." 

If you are an orthodox Communist, then another orthodox Communist will sidle up to you, peering 
about with hostile suspicion, and he'll begin to whisper in your ear so that the uninitiated cannot 
overhear: 

"It's our duty to support Soviet interrogation. It's a combat situation. We ourselves are to blame. We 
were too softhearted; and now look at all the rot that has multiplied in the country. There is a vicious 
secret war going on. Even here we are surrounded by enemies. Just listen to what they are saying! 
The Party is not obliged to account for what it does to every single one of us — to explain the whys 
and wherefores. If they ask us to, that means we should sign." 

And another orthodox Communist sidles up: 



"I signed denunciations against thirty-five people, against all my acquaintances. And I advise you 
too: Drag along as many names as you can in your wake, as many as you can. That way it will 
become obvious that the whole thing is an absurdity and they'll let everyone out!" 

But that is precisely what the Organs need. The conscientiousness of the orthodox Communist and 
the purpose of the NKVD naturally coincide. Indeed, the NKVD needs just that arched fan of names, 
that fat multiplication of them. That is the mark of quality of their work, and these are also new 
patches of woods in which to set out snares. "Your accomplices, accomplices! Others who share 
your views!" That is what they keep pressing to shake out of everyone. They say that R. Ralov 
named Cardinal Richelieu as one of his accomplices and that the Cardinal was in fact so listed in his 
depositions — and no one was astonished by this until Ralov was questioned about it at his 
rehabilitation proceedings in 1956. 

Apropos of the orthodox Communists, Stalin was necessary, for such a purge as that, yes, but a Party 
like that was necessary too: the majority of those in power, up to the very moment of their own 
arrest, were pitiless in arresting others, obediently destroyed their peers in accordance with those 
same instructions and handed over to retribution any friend or comrade-in-arms of yesterday. And all 
the big Bolsheviks, who now wear martyrs' halos, managed to be the executioners of other 
Bolsheviks (not even taking into account how all of them in the first place had been the executioners 
of non-Communists). Perhaps 1937 was needed in order to show how little their whole ideology was 
worth — that ideology of which they boasted so enthusiastically, turning Russia upside down, 
destroying its foundations, trampling everything it held sacred underfoot, that Russia where they 
themselves had never been threatened by such retribution. The victims of the Bolsheviks from 1918 
to 1946 never conducted themselves so despicably as the leading Bolsheviks when the lightning 
struck them. If you study in detail the whole history of the arrests and trials of 1936 to 1938, the 
principal revulsion you feel is not against Stalin and his accomplices, but against the humiliatingly 
repulsive defendants — nausea at their spiritual baseness after their former pride and implacability. 

So what is the answer? How can you stand your ground when you are weak and sensitive to pain, 
when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared? 

What do you need to make you stronger than the interrogator and the whole trap? 

From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very 
threshold, you must say to yourself: "My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there's nothing to be 
done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die — ^now or a little later. But later 
on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property 
whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is 
useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me." 

Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble. 

Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory. 

But how can one turn one's body to stone? 

Well, they managed to turn some individuals from the Berdyayev circle into puppets for a trial, but 
they didn't succeed with Berdyayev. They wanted to drag him into an open trial; they arrested him 
twice; and (in 1922) he was subjected to a night interrogation by Dzerzhinsky himself. Kamenev was 
there too (which means that he, too, was not averse to using the Cheka in an ideological conflict). 
But Berdyayev did not humiliate himself. He did not beg or plead. He set forth firmly those religious 
and moral principles which had led him to refuse to accept the political authority established in 
Russia. And not only did they come to the conclusion that he would be useless for a trial, but they 
liberated him. 



A human being has a point of view! 

N. Stolyarova recalls an old woman who was her neighbor on the Butyrki bunks in 1937. They kept 
on interrogating her every night. Two years earlier, a former Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church, 
who had escaped from exile, had spent a night at her home on his way through Moscow. "But he 
wasn't the former Metropolitan, he was the Metropolitan! Truly, I was worthy of receiving him." 
"All right then. To whom did he go when he left Moscow?" "I know, but I won't tell you!" (The 
Metropolitan had escaped to Finland via an underground railroad of believers.) At first the 
interrogators took turns, and then they went after her in groups. They shook their fists in the little old 
woman's face, and she replied: "There is nothing you can do with me even if you cut me into pieces. 
After all, you are afraid of your bosses, and you are afraid of each other, and you are even afraid of 
killing me." (They would lose contact with the underground railroad.) "But I am not afraid of 
anything. I would be glad to be judged by God right this minute." 

There were such people in 1937 too, people who did not return to their cell for their bundles of 
belongings, who chose death, who signed nothing denouncing anyone. 

One can't say that the history of the Russian revolutionaries has given us any better examples of 
steadfastness. But there is no comparison anyway, because none of our revolutionaries ever knew 
what a really good interrogation could be, with fifty-two different methods to choose from. 

Sheshkovsky did not subject Radishchev to torture. And because of contemporary custom, 
Radishchev knew perfectly well that his sons would serve as officers in the imperial guard no matter 
what happened to him, and that their lives wouldn't be cut short. Nor would anyone confiscate 
Radishchev's family estate. Nonetheless, in the course of his brief two-week interrogation, this 
outstanding man renounced his beliefs and his book and begged for mercy. 

Nicholas I didn't have enough imagination to arrest the wives of the Decembrists and compel them to 

scream in the interrogation room next door, or even to torture the Decembrists themselves. But in 
any case he didn't need to. Even Ryleyev "answered fully, frankly, and hid nothing." Even Pestel 
broke down and named comrades (who were still free) assigned to bury Russkaya Pravda and the 
very place where it had been buried. 

[In part, the reason for this was the same as in the case of Bukharin many years later. They were, 
after all, being interrogated by their social equals, their class brothers, and so their desire to explain 
everything was only natural.] 

There were very few who, like Lunin, expressed disdain and contempt for the investigating 
commission. The majority behaved badly and got one another more deeply involved. Many of them 
begged abjectly to be pardoned! Zavalishin put all the blame on Ryleyev. Y. P. Obolensky and S. P. 
Trubetskoi couldn't wait to slander Griboyedov — which even Nicholas I didn't believe. 

Bakunin in his Confessions abjectly groveled before Nicholas I — thereby avoiding execution. Was 
this wretchedness of soul? Or revolutionary cunning? 

One would think that those who decided to assassinate Alexander II must have been people of the 
highest selflessness and dedication. After all, they knew what the stakes were! Grinevitsky shared 
the fate of the Tsar, but Rysakov remained alive and was held for interrogation. And that very day he 
blabbed on the participants in the plot and identified their secret meeting places. Out of fear for his 
young life he rushed to give the government more information than he could ever have been 
suspected of having. He nearly choked with repentance; he proposed to "expose all the secrets of the 
Anarchists." 

At the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, the Tsarist interrogator immediately 



withdrew his question if the prisoner found it inappropriate or too intimate. But in Kresty Prison in 
1938, when the old political hard-labor prisoner Zelensky was whipped with ramrods with his pants 
pulled down like a small boy, he wept in his cell: "My Tsarist interrogator didn't even dare address 
me rudely." 

Or, for example, we learn from recently published research that the Tsarist gendarmes seized the 
manuscript of Lenin's essay "What Are Our Ministers Thinking Of?" but were unable to get at its 
author: 

"At the interrogation the gendarmes, jm^'? as one might have expected, learned very little from the 
student Vaneyev. [The italics here and throughout this quotation are my own.] He informed them 
only that the manuscripts found at his place had been brought to him in one package for safekeeping 
several days before the search by a certain person whom he did not wish to name. Therefore the 
interrogator's sole alternative was to turn the manuscripts over for expert analysis." The experts 
learned nothing. (What did he mean — his "sole alternative"? What about icy water up to the ankles? 
Or a salt-water douche? Or Ryumin's truncheon?) It would seem that the author of this article, R. 
Peresvetov, himself served time for several years and might easily have enumerated what 
"alternatives" the interrogator actually had when confronting the guardian of Lenin's "What Are Our 
Ministers Thinking Of?" 

As S. P. Melgunov recollects: "That was a Tsarist prison, a prison of blessed memory, which 
political prisoners nowadays can only recall with a feeling almost of gladness." 

But that is a case of displaced concepts. The yardstick is totally different. Just as oxcart drivers of 
Gogol's time could not have imagined the speed of a jet plane, those who have never gone through 
the receiving-Une meat grinder of Gulag cannot grasp the true possibilities of interrogation. 

We read in Izvestiya for May 24, 1959, that Yuliya Rumyantseva was confined in the internal prison 
of a Nazi camp while they tried to find out from her the whereabouts of her husband, who had 
escaped from that same camp. She knew, but she refused to tell! For a reader who is not in the know 
this is a model of heroism. For a reader with a bitter Gulag past it's a model of inefficient 
interrogation: Yuliya did not die under torture, and she was not driven insane. A month later she was 
simply released — still very much alive and kicking. 

All these thoughts about standing firm as a rock were quite unknown to me in February, 1945. Not 
only was I not in the least prepared to cut my cozy ties with earth, I was even quite angry for a long 
time because a hundred or so Faber pencils had been taken away from me when I was arrested. 
Looking back on my interrogation from my long subsequent imprisonment, I had no reason to be 
proud of it. I might have borne myself more firmly; and in all probability I could have maneuvered 
more skillfully. But my first weeks were characterized by a mental blackout and a slump into 
depression. The only reason these recollections do not torment me with remorse is that, thanks be to 
God, I avoided getting anyone else arrested. But I came close to it. 

Although we were front-line officers, Nikolai V. and I, who were involved in the same case, got 
ourselves into prison through a piece of childish stupidity. He and I corresponded during the war, 
between two sectors of the front; and though we knew perfectly well that wartime censorship of 
correspondence was in effect, we indulged in fairly outspoken expressions of our political outrage 
and in derogatory comments about the Wisest of the Wise, whom we labeled with the transparently 
obvious nickname of Pakhan or Ringleader of the Thieves. (When, later on, I reported our case in 
various prisons, our naivete aroused only laughter and astonishment. Other prisoners told me that 
two more such stupid jackasses couldn't exist. And I became convinced of it myself. Then suddenly, 
one day, reading some documents on the case of Aleksandr Ulyanov, Lenin's elder brother, I learned 
that he and his confederates got caught in exactly the same way — a careless exchange of letters. And 
that was the only reason Alexander III didn't die on March 1, 1887.) 



[A member of the group, Andreyushkin sent a frank letter to his friend in Kharkov: "I am firmly 
convinced that we are going to have the most merciless terror — and in the fairly near future too. . . . 
Red Terror is my hobby. ... I am worried about my addressee. ... If he gets it, then I may get it too, 
and that will be unfortunate because I will drag in a lot of very effective people." It was not the first 
such letter he had written! And the unhurried search this letter initiated continued for five weeks, via 
Kharkov, in order to discover who in St. Petersburg had written it. Andreyushkin's identity was not 
established until February 28. On March 1, the bomb throwers, bombs in hand, were arrested on 
Nevsky Prospekt just before the attempted assassination.] 

The office of my interrogator, I.I.. Yezepov, was high-ceilinged, spacious and bright, with an 
enormous window. (The Rossiya Insurance Company had not been built with torture in mind.) And, 
putting to use its seventeen feet of height, a full-length, vertical, thirteen-foot portrait of that 
powerful Sovereign hung there, toward whom I, grain of sand that I was, had expressed my hatred. 
Sometimes the interrogator stood in front of the portrait and declaimed dramatically: "We are ready 
to lay down our lives for him! We are ready to lie down in the path of oncoming tanks for his sake!" 
Face to face with the altarlike grandeur of that portrait, my mumbling about some kind of purified 
Leninism seemed pitiful, and I myself seemed a blasphemous slanderer deserving only death. 

The contents of our letters provided more than enough, in keeping with the standards of those times, 
to sentence us both. Therefore my interrogator did not have to invent anything. He merely tried to 
cast his noose around everyone I had ever written to or received a letter from. I had expressed myself 
vehemently in letters to friends my own age and had been almost reckless in spelling out seditious 
ideas, but my friends for some reason had continued to correspond with me! And some suspicious 
phrases could be found in their replies to my letters. 

[One of our school friends was nearly arrested because of me at this time. It was an enormous relief 
to me to learn later that he was still free! But then, twenty-two years later, he wrote to me: "On the 
basis of your published works I conclude that you take a one-sided view of life. . . . Objectively 
speaking, you have become the standard-bearer of Fascist reactionaries in the West, in West 
Germany and the United States, for example. . . . Lenin, whom, I'm convinced, you love and honor 
just as much as you used to, yes, and old Marx and Engels, too, would have condemned you in the 
severest fashion. Think about that!" Indeed, I do think about that: How sorry I am that you didn't get 
arrested then! How much you lost!] 

And then Yezepov, like Porfiri Petrovich, demanded that I explain it all in a coherent way: if we had 
expressed ourselves in such a fashion in letters that we knew were subject to censorship, what could 
we have said to each other face to face? I could not convince him that all my fire-eating talk was 
confined to my letters. And at that point, with muddled mind, I had to undertake to weave something 
credible about my meetings with my friends — meetings referred to in my letters. What I said had to 
jibe with the letters, in such a way as to be on the very edge of political matters and yet not fall under 
that Criminal Code. Moreover, these explanations had to pour forth quickly, all in one breath, so as 
to convince this veteran interrogator of my naivete, my humility, my total honesty. The main thing 
was not to provoke my lazy interrogator to any interest in looking through that accursed load of stuff 
I had brought in my accursed suitcase — including many notebooks of my "War Diary," written in 
hard, light pencil in a needle-thin handwriting, with some of the notes already partially washed out. 
These diaries constituted my claim to becoming a writer. I had not believed in the capacities of our 
amazing memory, and throughout the war years I had tried to write down everything I saw. That 
would have been only half a catastrophe: I also wrote down everything I heard from other people. 
But opinions and stories which were so natural in front-line areas seemed to be treasonable here in 
the rear and reeked of raw imprisonment for my front-line comrades. So to prevent that interrogator 
from going to work on my "War Diary" and mining from it a whole case against a free front-Une 
tribe, I repented just as much as I had to and pretended to see the light and reject my political 
mistakes. I became utterly exhausted from this balancing on a razor's edge, until I recognized that no 
one was being hauled in for a confrontation with me and distinguished the clear signs that the 



interrogation was drawing to an end .. . until, in the fourth month, all the notebooks of my "War 
Diary" were cast into the hellish maw of the Lubyanka furnace, where they burst into flame — the red 
pyre of one more novel which had perished in Russia — and flew out of the highest chimney in black 
butterflies of soot. 

We used to walk in the shadow of that chimney, our exercise yard a boxlike concrete enclosure on 
the roof of the Big Lubyanka, six floors up. The walls rose around us to approximately three times a 
man's height. With our own ears we could hear Moscow — automobile horns honking back and forth. 
But all we could see was that chimney, the guard posted in a seventh-floor tower, and that segment 
of God's heaven whose unhappy fate it was to float over the Lubyanka. 

Oh, that soot! It kept falling on and on in that first postwar May. So much of it fell during each of 
our walks that we decided the Lubyanka must be burning countless years of files. My doomed diary 
was only one momentary plume of that soot. I recalled a frosty sunny morning in March when I was 
sitting in the interrogator's office. He was asking his customary crude questions and writing down 
my answers, distorting my words as he did so. The sun played in the melting latticework of the frost 
on the wide window, through which at times I felt very much like jumping, so as to flash through 
Moscow at least in death and smash onto the sidewalk five floors below, just as, in my childhood, 
my unknown predecessor had jumped from House 33 in Rostov-on-the-Don. In the gaps where the 
frost had melted, the rooftops of Moscow could be seen, rooftop after rooftop, and above them merry 
little puffs of smoke. But I was staring not in that direction but at a mound of piled-up manuscripts — 
someone else's — covering the entire center of the floor in this half -empty room, thirty-six square 
yards in area, manuscripts which had been dumped there a little while before and had not yet been 
examined. In notebooks, in file folders, in homemade binders, in tied and untied bundles, and simply 
in loose pages. The manuscripts lay there like the burial mound of some interred human spirit, its 
conical top rearing higher than the interrogator's desk, almost blocking me from his view. And 
brotherly pity ached in me for the labor of that unknown person who had been arrested the previous 
night, these spoils from the search of his premises having been dumped that very morning on the 
parquet floor of the torture chamber, at the feet of that thirteen-foot Stalin. I sat there and I 
wondered: Whose extraordinary life had they brought in for torment, for dismemberment, and then 
for burning? 

Oh, how many ideas and works had perished in that building — a whole lost culture? Oh, soot, soot, 
from the Lubyanka chimneys! And the most hurtful thing of all was that our descendants would 
consider our generation more stupid, less gifted, less vocal than in actual fact it was. 

One needs to have only two points in order to draw a straight line between them. 

In 1920, as Ehrenburg recalls, the Cheka addressed him as follows: 

"You prove to us that you are not Wrangel's agent." 

And in 1950, one of the leading colonels of the MGB, Foma Fomich Zheleznov, said to his 
prisoners: "We are not going to sweat to prove the prisoner's guilt to him. Let him prove to us that he 
did not have hostile intent." 

And along this cannibalistically artless straight line lie the recollections of countless millions. 

What a speed-up and simplification of criminal investigation previously unknown to mankind! The 
Organs altogether freed themselves of the burden of obtaining proof! Trembling and pale, the rabbit 
who had been caught, deprived of the right to write anyone, phone anyone, bring anything with him 
from freedom, deprived too of sleep, food, paper, pencils, and even buttons, seated on a bare stool in 
the comer of an office, had to try to find out for himself and display to that loafer of an interrogator 
proof that he did not have hostile intentions. If he could not discover such proof (and where would 



he find it?), by that very failure he provided the interrogation with approximate proof of his guilt! 

I knew of a case in which a certain old man who had been a prisoner in Germany managed 
nonetheless, sitting there on his bare stool and gesturing with his cold fingers, to prove to his 
monster of an interrogator that he did not betray his Motherland and even that he did not have any 
such intention! It was a scandal! And what happened? Did they free him? Of course not — after all, 
he told me about this in Butyrki and not on Tverskoi Boulevard in the middle of Moscow. At that 
point a second interrogator joined the first and they spent a quiet evening reminisc- ing with the old 
man. Then the two interrogators signed witnesses' affidavits stating that in the course of the evening 
the hungry, sleepy old man had engaged in anti-Soviet propaganda! Things were said innocently — 
but they weren't listened to innocently. The old man was then turned over to a third interrogator, who 
quashed the treason indictment and neatly nailed him with that very same tenner for Anti-Soviet 
Agitation during his interrogation. 

Given that interrogations had ceased to be an attempt to get at the truth, for the interrogators in 
difficult cases they became a mere exercise of their duties as executioners and in easy cases simply a 
pastime and a basis for receiving a salary. 

And easy cases always existed, even in the notorious year 1937. For example, Borodko was accused 
of having visited his parents in Poland sixteen years before without having a passport for foreign 
travel. (His papa and mama lived all of ten versts — six miles — away, but the diplomats had signed 
away that part of Byelorussia to Poland, and in 1921 people had not yet gotten used to that fact and 
went back and forth as they pleased.) The interrogation took just an hour. 

Question: Did you go there? 

Answer: I did. 

Question: How? 

Answer: Horseback, of course. 

Conclusion: Take ten years for KRD. 

[KRD = Counter-Revolutionary Activity.] 

But that sort of pace smells of the Stakhanovite movement, a movement which found no disciples 
among the bluecaps. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure every interrogation was supposed 
to take two months. And if it presented difficulties, one was allowed to ask the prosecutor for several 
continuations of a month apiece (which, of course, the prosecutors never refused). Thus it would 
have been stupid to risk one's health, not to take advantage of these postponements, and, speaking in 
factory terms, to raise one's work norms. Having worked with voice and fist in the initial assault 
week of every interrogation, and thereby expended one's will and character (as per Vyshinsky), the 
interrogators had a vital interest in dragging out the remainder of every case as long as possible. That 
way more old, subdued cases were on hand and fewer new ones. It was considered just indecent to 
complete a political interrogation in two months. 

The state system itself suffered from its own lack of trust and from its rigidity. These interrogators 
were selected personnel, but they weren't trusted either. In all probability they, too, were required to 
check in on arriving and check out on leaving, and the prisoners were, of course, checked in and out 
when called for questioning. What else could the interrogators do to keep the bookkeepers' accounts 
straight? They would summon one of their defendants, sit him down in a comer, ask him some 
terrifying question — and then forget about him while they themselves sat for a long time reading the 
paper, writing an outline for a political indoctrination course or personal letters, or went off to visit 
one another, leaving guards to act as watchdogs in their place. Peacefully batting the breeze on the 
sofa with a colleague who had just dropped in, the interrogator would come to himself once in a 
while, look threateningly at the accused, and say: 



"Now there's a rat! There's a real rat for you! Well, that's all right, we'll not be stingy about his nine 
grams!" 

My interrogator also made frequent use of the telephone. For example, he used to phone home and 
tell his wife — with his sparkling eyes directed at me — that he was going to be working all night long 
so she mustn't expect him before morning. (My heart, of course, fell. That meant he would be 
working me over all night long!) But then he would immediately dial the phone number of his 
mistress and, in purring tones, make a date with her for the night. (So: I would be able to get some 
sleep! I felt relieved.) 

Thus it was that the faultless system was moderated only by the shortcomings of those who carried it 
out. 

Certain of the more curious interrogators used to enjoy using "empty" interrogations to broaden their 
knowledge of life. They might ask the accused prisoner about the front (about those very German 
tanks beneath which they never quite managed to find the time to throw themselves). Or perhaps 
about the customs of European countries and lands across the sea which the prisoner had visited: 
about the stores and the merchandise sold in them, and particularly about procedures in foreign 
whorehouses and about all kinds of adventures with women. 

The Code of Criminal Procedure provided that the prosecutor was to review continuously the course 
of every interrogation to ensure its being conducted correctly. But no one in our time ever saw him 
face to face until the so-called "questioning by the prosecutor," which meant the interrogation was 
nearing its end. I, too, was taken to such a "questioning." Lieutenant Colonel Kotov, a calm, well- 
nourished, impersonal blond man, who was neither nasty nor nice but essentially a cipher, sat behind 
his desk and, yawning, examined for the first time the file on my case. He spent fifteen minutes 
acquainting himself with it while I watched. (Since this "questioning" was quite unavoidable and 
since it was also recorded, there would have been no sense at all in his studying the file at some 
earlier, unrecorded time and then having had to remember details of the case for a certain number of 
hours.) Finally, he raised his indifferent eyes to stare at the wall and asked lazily what I wanted to 
add to my testimony. 

He was required by law to ask what complaints I had about the conduct of the interrogation and 
whether coercion had been used or any violations of my legal rights had occurred. But it had been a 
long time since prosecutors asked such questions. And what if they had? After all, the existence of 
that entire Ministry building with its thousands of rooms, and of all five thousand of the Ministry's 
other interrogation buildings, railroad cars, caves, and dugouts scattered throughout the Soviet 
Union, was based on violations of legal rights. And it certainly wasn't up to Lieutenant Colonel 
Kotov and me to reverse that whole process. 

Anyway, all the prosecutors of any rank at all held their positions with the approval of that very 
same State Security which . . . they were supposed to check up on. 

His own wilted state, his lack of combativeness, and his fatigue from all those endless stupid cases 
were somehow transmitted to me. So I didn't raise questions of truth with him. I requested only that 
one too obvious stupidity be corrected: two of us had been indicted in the same case, but our 
interrogations were conducted in different places — mine in Moscow and my friend's at the front. 
Therefore I was processed singly, yet charged under Section 11 — in other words, as a group, an 
organization. As persuasively as possible, I requested him to cancel this additional charge under 
Section 11. 

He leafed through the case for another five minutes, sighed, spread out his hands, and said: 
"What's there to say? One person is a person and two persons are ... people." 



But one person and a half — is that an organization? 

And he pushed the button for them to come and take me away. Soon after that, late one evening in 
late May, in that same office with a sculptured bronze clock on the marble mantel, my interrogator 
summoned me for a "206" procedure. This was, in accordance with the provisions of the Code of 
Criminal Procedure, the defendant's review of the case before his final signature. Not doubting for 
one moment that I would sign, the interrogator was already seated, writing the conclusion of the 
indictment. 

I opened the cover of the thick file, and there, on the inside of the cover in printed text, I read an 
astonishing statement. It turned out that during the interrogation I had had the right to make written 
complaints against anything improper in its conduct, and that the interrogator was obliged to staple 
these complaints into my record! During the interrogation! Not at its end. 

Alas, not one of the thousands with whom I was later imprisoned had been aware of this right. 

I turned more pages. I saw photocopies of my own letters and a totally distorted interpretation of 
their meaning by unknown commentators (like Captain Libin). I saw the hyperbolized lie in which 
Captain Yezepov had wrapped up my careful testimony. And, last but not least, I saw the idiocy 
whereby I, one individual, was accused as a "group" ! 

"I won't sign," I said, without much firmness. "You conducted the interrogation improperly." 

"All right then, let's begin it all over again!" Maliciously he compressed his lips. "We'll send you off 
to the place where we keep the Polizei." 

He even stretched out his hand as though to take the file away from me. (At that point I held onto it.) 

Somewhere outside the fifth-floor windows of the Lubyanka, the golden sunset sun glowed. 
Somewhere it was May. The office windows, like all the windows facing outward, were tightly 
closed and had not yet been unsealed after the winter — so that fresh air and the fragrance of things in 
bloom should not creep into those hidden rooms. The bronze clock on the mantel, from which the 
last rays of the sun had disappeared, quietly chimed. 

Begin all over again? It seemed to me it would be easier to die than to begin all over again. Ahead of 
me loomed at least some kind of life. (If I had only known what kind!) And then what about that 
place where they kept the Polizei? And, in general, it was a bad idea to make him angry. It would 
influence the tone in which he phrased the conclusion of the indictment. 

And so I signed. I signed it complete with Section 1 1, the significance of which I did not then know. 
They told me only that it would not add to my prison term. But because of that Section 111 was later 
put into a hard-labor camp. Because of that Section 111 was sent, even after "liberation," and 
without any additional sentence, into eternal exile. 

Maybe it was all for the best. Without both those experiences, I would not have written this book. 

My interrogator had used no methods on me other than sleeplessness, lies, and threats — all 
completely legal. Therefore, in the course of the "206" procedure, he didn't have to shove at me — as 
did interrogators who had made a mess of things and wanted to play safe — a document on 
nondisclosure for me to sign: that I, the undersigned, under pain of criminal penalty, swore never to 
tell anyone about the methods used in conducting my interrogation. (No one knows, incidentally, 
what article of the Code this comes under.) 

In several of the provincial administrations of the NKVD this measure was carried out in sequence: 



the typed statement on nondisclosure was shoved at a prisoner along with the verdict of the OSO. 
And later a similar document was shoved at prisoners being released from camp, whereby they 
guaranteed never to disclose to anyone the state of affairs in camp. 

And so? Our habit of obedience, our bent (or broken) backbone, did not suffer us either to reject this 
gangster method of burying loose ends or even to be enraged by it. 

We have lost the measure of freedom. We have no means of determining where it begins and where 
it ends. We are an Asiatic people. On and on and on they go, taking from us those endless pledges of 
nondisclosure — everyone not too lazy to ask for them. 

By now we are even unsure whether we have the right to talk about the events of our own lives. 

Chapter 4 
The Bluecaps 

Throughout the grinding of our souls in the gears of the great Nighttime Institution, when our souls 
are pulverized and our flesh hangs down in tatters like a beggar's rags, we suffer too much and are 
too immersed in our own pain to rivet with penetrating and far-seeing gaze those pale night 
executioners who torture us. A surfeit of inner grief floods our eyes. 

Otherwise what historians of our torturers we would be! For it is certain they will never describe 
themselves as they actually are. But alas! Every former prisoner remembers his own interrogation in 
detail, how they squeezed him, and what foulness they squeezed out of him — but often he does not 
even remember their names, let alone think about them as human beings. So it is with me. I can 
recall much more — and much more that's interesting — about any one of my cellmates than I can 
about Captain of State Security Yezepov, with whom I spent no little time face to face, the two of us 
alone in his office. 

There is one thing, however, which remains with us all as an accurate, generalized recollection: foul 
rot — a space totally infected with putrefaction. And even when, decades later, we are long past fits of 
anger or outrage, in our own quieted hearts we retain this firm impression of low, malicious, 
impious, and, possibly, muddled people. 

There is an interesting story about Alexander II, the Tsar surrounded by revolutionaries, who were to 
make seven attempts on his life. He once visited the House of Preliminary Detention on 
Shpalernaya — the uncle of the Big House — where he ordered them to lock him up in solitary- 
confinement cell No. 227. He stayed in it for more than an hour, attempting thereby to sense the state 
of mind of those he had imprisoned there. 

One cannot but admit that for a monarch this was evidence of moral aspiration, to feel the need and 
make the effort to take a spiritual view of the matter. 

But it is impossible to picture any of our interrogators, right up to Abakumov and Beria, wanting to 
slip into a prisoner's skin even for one hour, or feeling compelled to sit and meditate in solitary 
confinement. 

Their branch of service does not require them to be educated people of broad culture and broad 
views — and they are not. Their branch of service does not require them to think logically — and they 
do not. Their branch of service requires only that they carry out orders exactly and be impervious to 
suffering — and that is what they do and what they are. We who have passed through their hands feel 
suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of universal human ideals. 



Although others might not be aware of it, it was clear to the interrogators at least that the cases were 
fabricated. Except at staff conferences, they could not seriously say to one another or to themselves 
that they were exposing criminals. Nonetheless they kept right on producing depositions page after 
page to make sure that we rotted. So the essence of it all turns out to be the credo of the blatnye — the 
underworld of Russian thieves: "You today; me tomorrow." 

They understood that the cases were fabricated, yet they kept on working year after year. How could 
they? Either they forced themselves not to think (and this in itself means the ruin of a human being), 
and simply accepted that this was the way it had to be and that the person who gave them their orders 
was always right. . . 

But didn't the Nazis, too, it comes to mind, argue that same way? 

[There is no way of sidestepping this comparison: both the years and the methods coincide too 
closely. And the comparison occurred even more naturally to those who had passed through the 
hands of both the Gestapo and the MGB. One of these was Yevgeny Ivanovich Divnich, an emigre 
and preacher of Orthodox Christianity. The Gestapo accused him of Communist activities among 
Russian workers in Germany, and the MGB charged him with having ties to the international 
bourgeoisie. Divnich's verdict was unfavorable to the MGB. He was tortured by both, but the 
Gestapo was nonetheless trying to get at the truth, and when the accusation did not hold up, Divnich 
was released. The MGB wasn't interested in the truth and had no intention of letting anyone out of its 
grip once he was arrested.] 

Or else it was a matter of the Progressive Doctrine, the granite ideology. An interrogator in awful 

Orotukan — sent there to the Kolyma in 1938 as a penalty assignment — was so touched when M. 
Lurye, former director of the Krivoi Rog Industrial Complex, readily agreed to sign an indictment 
which meant a second camp term that he used the time they had thus saved to say: "You think we get 
any satisfaction from using persuasion? 

[An affectionate term for torture.} 

We have to do what the Party demands of us. You are an old Party member. Tell me what would you 

do in my place?" Apparently Lurye nearly agreed with him, and it may have been the fact that he had 
already been thinking in some such terms that led him to sign so readily. It is after all a convincing 
argument. 

But most often it was merely a matter of cynicism. The bluecaps understood the workings of the 
meat grinder and loved it. In the Dzhida camps in 1944, interrogator Mironenko said to the 
condemned Babich with pride in his faultless logic: "Interrogation and trial are merely judicial 
corroboration. They cannot alter your fate, which was previously decided. If it is necessary to shoot 
you, then you will be shot even if you are altogether innocent. If it is necessary to acquit you, then no 
matter how guilty you are you will be cleared and acquitted." 

[This evidently refers to their own people.] 

Kushnaryev, Chief of the First Investigation Department of the West Kazakhstan Provincial State 
Security Administration, laid it on the line in just that way to Adolf Tsivilko. "After all, we're not 
going to let you out if you're a Leningrader!" (In other words, a Communist Party member with 
seniority.) 

"Just give us a person — and we'll create the case!" That was what many of them said jokingly, and it 
was their slogan. What we think of as torture they think of as good work. The wife of the 
interrogator Nikolai Grabishchenko (the Volga Canal Project) said touchingly to her neighbors: 
"Kolya is a very good worker. One of them didn't confess for a long time — and they gave him to 



Kolya. Kolya talked with him for one night and he confessed." 

What prompted them all to slip into harness and pursue so zealously not truth but totals of the 
processed and condemned? Because it was most comfortable for them not to be different from the 
others. And because these totals meant an easy life, supplementary pay, awards and decorations, 
promotions in rank, and the expansion and prosperity of the Organs themselves. If they ran up high 
totals, they could loaf when they felt like it, or do poor work or go out and enjoy themselves at night. 
And that is just what they did. Low totals led to their being kicked out, to the loss of their feedbag. 
For Stalin could never be convinced that in any district, or city, or military unit, he might suddenly 
cease to have enemies. 

That was why they felt no mercy, but, instead, an explosion of resentment and rage toward those 
maliciously stubborn prisoners who opposed being fitted into the totals, who would not capitulate to 
sleeplessness or the punishment cell or hunger. By refusing to confess they menaced the 
interrogator's personal standing. It was as though they wanted to bring him down. In such 
circumstances all measures were justified! If it's to be war, then war it will be! We'll ram the tube 
down your throat — swallow that salt water! 

Excluded by the nature of their work and by deliberate choice from the higher sphere of human 
existence, the servitors of the Blue Institution lived in their lower sphere with all the greater intensity 
and avidity. And there they were possessed and directed by the two strongest instincts of the lower 
sphere, other than hunger and sex: greed for power and greed for gain. (Particularly for power. In 
recent decades it has turned out to be more important than money.) 

Power is a poison well known for thousands of years. If only no one were ever to acquire material 
power over others! But to the human being who has faith in some force that holds dominion over all 
of us, and who is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal. For those, 
however, who are unaware of any higher sphere, it is a deadly poison. For them there is no antidote. 

Remember what Tolstoi said about power? Ivan Ilyich had accepted an official position which gave 
him authority to destroy any person he wanted to! All without exception were in his hands, and 
anyone, even the most important, could be brought before him as an accused. (And that is just where 
our blueboys are! There is nothing to add to the description.) The consciousness of this power (and 
"the possibilities of using it mercifully" — so Tolstoi qualifies the situation, but this does not in any 
way apply to our boys) constituted for Ivan Ilyich the chief interest and attraction of the service. 

But attraction is not the right word — it is intoxication! After all, it is intoxicating. You are still 
young — still, shall we say parenthetically, a sniveling youth. Only a little while ago your parents 
were deeply concerned about you and didn't know where to turn to launch you in life. You were such 
a fool you didn't even want to study, but you got through three years of that school — and then how 
you took off and flew! How your situation changed! How your gestures changed, your glance, the 
turn of your head! The learned council of the scientific institute is in session. You enter and every- 
one notices you and trembles. You don't take the chairman's chair. Those headaches are for the rector 
to take on. You sit off to one side, but everyone understands that you are head man there. You are 
the Special Department. And you can sit there for just five minutes and then leave. You have that 
advantage over the professors. You can be called away by more important business — but later on, 
when you're considering their decision, you will raise your eyebrows or, better still, purse your lips 
and say to the rector: 

"You can't do that. There are special considerations involved." 

That's all! And it won't be done. Or else you are an osobist — a State Security representative in the 
army — a SMERSH man, and a mere lieutenant; but the portly old colonel, the commander of the 
unit, stands up when you enter the room and tries to flatter you, to play up to you. He doesn't even 



have a drink with his chief of staff without inviting you to join them. The fact that you have only two 
tiny stars on your shoulder boards doesn't mean a thing; it is even amusing. After all, your stars have 
a very different weight and are measured on a totally different scale from those of ordinary officers. 
(On special assignments you are sometimes even authorized to wear major's insignia, for example, 
which is a sort of incognito, a convention.) You have a power over all the people in that military 
unit, or factory, or district, incomparably greater than that of the military commander, or factory 
director, or secretary of the district Communist Party. These men control people's military or official 
duties, wages, reputations, but you control people's freedom. And no one dares speak about you at 
meetings, and no one will ever dare write about you in the newspaper — not only something bad but 
anything good! They don't dare. Your name, like that of a jealously guarded deity, cannot even be 
mentioned. You are there; everyone feels your presence; but it's as though you didn't exist. From the 
moment you don that heavenly blue service cap, you stand higher than the publicly acknowledged 
power. No one dares check up on what you do. But no one is exempt from your checking up on him. 
And therefore, in dealing with ordinary so-called citizens, who for you are mere blocks of wood, it is 
altogether appropriate for you to wear an ambiguous and deeply thoughtful expression. For, of 
course, you are the one — and no one else — who knows about the special considerations. And 
therefore you are always right. 

There is just one thing you must never forget. You, too, would have been just such a poor block of 
wood if you had not had the luck to become one of the little links in the Organs — that flexible, 
unitary organism inhabiting a nation as a tapeworm inhabits a human body. Everything is yours now! 
Everything is for you! Just be true to the Organs! They will always stand up for you! They will help 
you swallow up anyone who bothers you! They will help move every obstacle from your path! But — 
be true to the Organs! Do everything they order you to! They will do the thinking for you in respect 
to your functions too: today you serve in a special unit; tomorrow you will sit in an interrogator's 
armchair; and then perhaps you will travel to Lake Seliger as a folklorist, partly, it may be, to get 
your nerves straightened out. 

[Ilin in 1931.] 

And next you may be sent from a city where you are too well known to the opposite end of the 
country as a Plenipotentiary in Charge of Church Affairs. 

[The violent Yaroslavl interrogator Volkopyalov, appointed Plenipotentiary in Charge of Church 
Affairs in Moldavia.] 

Or perhaps you will become Executive Secretary of the Union of Soviet Writers. 

[Another Ilin — this one Viktor Nikolayevich, a former lieutenant general of State Security.] 

Be surprised at nothing. People's true appointments and true ranks are known only to the Organs. 
The rest is merely play-acting. Some Honored Artist or other, or Hero of Socialist Agriculture, is 
here today, and tomorrow, puff! he's gone. 

["Who are you?" asked General Serov in Berlin of the world-renowned biologist Timofeyev- 
Ressovsky, offensively using the familiar form of address. And the scientist, who was undismayed 
and who possessed a Cossack's hereditary daring, replied, using the same familiar form: "And who 
are you?" Serov corrected himself and, this time using the formal and correct form, asked: "Are you 
a scientist?"] 

The duties of an interrogator require work, of course: you have to come in during the day, at night, 
sit for hours and hours — but not split your skull over "proof." (Let the prisoner's head ache over 
that.) And you don't have to worry whether the prisoner is guilty or not but simply do what the 
Organs require. And everything will be all right. It will be up to you to make the interrogation 



periods pass as pleasurably as possible and not to get overly fatigued. And it would be nice to get 
some good out of it — at least to amuse yourself. You have been sitting a long time, and all of a 
sudden a new method of persuasion occurs to you! Eureka! So you call up your friends on the 
phone, and you go around to other offices and tell them about it — what a laugh! Who shall we try it 
on, boys? It's really pretty monotonous to keep doing the same thing all the time. Those trembling 
hands, those imploring eyes, that cowardly submissiveness — they are really a bore. If you could just 
get one of them to resist! "I love strong opponents! It's such fun to break their backs!" said the 
Leningrad interrogator Shitov to G. G v. 

And if your opponent is so strong that he refuses to give in, all your methods have failed, and you are 
in a rage? Then don't control your fury! It's tremendously satisfying, that outburst! Let your anger 
have its way; don't set any bounds to it! Don't hold yourself back! That's when interrogators spit in 
the open mouth of the accused! And shove his face into a full cuspidor! 

[As happened with Vasilyev, according to Ivanov-Razumnik.] 

That's the state of mind in which they drag priests around by their long hair! Or urinate in a kneeling 
prisoner's face! After such a storm of fury you feel yourself a real honest-to-God man! 

Or else you are interrogating a "foreigner's girl friend." So you curse her out and then you say: 

"Come on now, does an American have a special kind of ? Is that it? Weren't there enough 

Russian ones for you?" And all of a sudden you get an idea: maybe she learned something from 
those foreigners. Here's a chance not to be missed, like an assignment abroad! And so you begin to 
interrogate her energetically: How? What positions? More! In detail! Every scrap of information! 
(You can use the information yourself, and you can tell the other boys too!) The girl is blushing all 
over and in tears. "It doesn't have anything to do with the case," she protests. "Yes, it does, speak 
up!" That's power for you! She gives you the full details. If you want, she'll draw a picture for you. If 
you want, she'll demonstrate with her body. She has no way out. In your hands you hold the punish- 
ment cell and her prison term. 

And if you have asked for a stenographer to take down the questions and answers, and they send in a 
pretty one, you can shove your paw down into her bosom right in front of the boy being interrogated. 

[Interrogator Pokhilko, Kemerovo State Security Administration.] 

He's not a human being after all, and there is no reason to feel shy in his presence. 

In fact, there's no reason for you to feel shy with anyone. And if you like the broads — and who 
doesn't? — you'd be a fool not to make use of your position. Some will be drawn to you because of 
your power, and others will give in out of fear. So you've met a girl somewhere and she's caught 
your eye? She'll belong to you, never fear; she can't get away! Someone else's wife has caught your 
eye? She'll be yours too! Because, after all, there's no prob- lem about removing the husband. 

[For a long time I've been hanging on to a theme for a story to be called "The Spoiled Wife." But it 
looks as though I will never get the chance to write it, so here it is. In a certain Far Eastern aviation 
unit before the Korean War, a certain lieutenant colonel returned from an assignment to find his wife 
in a hospital. The doctors did not hide the truth from him: her sexual organs had been injured by 
perverted sexual practices. The lieutenant colonel got in to see his wife and wrung from her the 
admission that the man responsible was the osobist in their unit, a senior lieutenant. (It would seem, 
by the way, that this incident had not occurred without some cooperation on her part.) In a rage the 
lieutenant colonel ran to the osobist's office, took out his pistol, and threatened to kill him. But the 
senior lieutenant very quickly forced him to back down and leave the office defeated and pitiful. He 
threatened to send the lieutenant colonel to rot in the most horrible of camps, where he'd pray to be 
released from life without further torment, and he ordered him to take his wife back just as he found 



her — with an injury that was to some extent incurable — and to live with her, not to dare get a 
divorce, and not to dare complain. And all this was the price for not being arrested! The lieutenant 
colonel did just as he was ordered. (I was told the story by the osobist's chauffeur.) 

There must have been many such cases, because the abuse of power was par- ticularly attractive in 
this area. In 1944, another gaybist — State Security officer — forced the daughter of an army general 
to marry him by threatening to arrest her father. The girl had a fiance, but to save her father she 
married the gaybist. She kept a diary during her brief marriage, gave it to her true love, and then 
committed suicide.] 

No, indeed! To know what it meant to be a bluecap one had to experience it! Anything you saw was 
yours! Any apartment you looked at was yours! Any woman was yours! Any enemy was struck from 
your path! The earth beneath your feet was yours! The heaven above you was yours — it was, after 
all, like your cap, sky blue! 

The passion for gain was their universal passion. After all, in the absence of any checking up, such 
power was inevitably used for personal enrichment. One would have had to be holy to refrain! 

If we were able to discover the hidden motivation behind in- dividual arrests, we would be astounded 
to find that, granted the rules governing arrests in general, 75 percent of the time the particular 
choice of whom to arrest, the personal cast of the die, was determined by human greed and 
vengefulness; and of that 75 percent, half were the result of material self-interest on the part of the 
local NKVD (and, of course, the prosecutor too, for on this point I do not distinguish between them). 

How, for example, did V. G. Vlasov's nineteen-year-long journey through the Archipelago begin? As 
head of the District Consumer Cooperatives he arranged a sale of textiles for the activists of the local 
Party organization. (These materials were of a sort and quality which no one nowadays would even 
touch.) No one was bothered, of course, by the fact that this sale was not open to the general public. 
But the prosecutor's wife was unable to buy any: She wasn't there at the time; Prosecutor Rusov him- 
self had been shy about approaching the counter; and Vlasov hadn't thought to say: "I'll set some 
aside for you." (In fact, given his character, he would never have said this anyway.) Further- more. 
Prosecutor Rusov had invited a friend to dine in the re- stricted Party dining room — such restricted 
dining rooms used to exist in the thirties. This friend of his was not high enough in rank to be 
admitted there, and the dining room manager refused to serve him. The prosecutor demanded that 
Vlasov punish the man- ager, and Vlasov refused. Vlasov also managed to insult the dis- trict 
NKVD, and just as painfully. And he was therefore added to the rightist opposition. 

The motivations and actions of the bluecaps are sometimes so petty that one can only be astounded. 
Security officer Senchenko took a map case and dispatch case from an officer he'd arrested and 
started to use them right in his presence, and, by manipu- lating the documentation, he took a pair of 
foreign gloves from another prisoner. (When the armies were advancing, the bluecaps were 
especially irritated because they got only second pick of the booty.) The counterintelligence officer 
of the Forty-ninth Army who arrested me had a yen for my cigarette case — and it wasn't even a 
cigarette case but a small German Army box, of a tempting scarlet, however. And because of that 
piece of shit he carried out a whole maneuver: As his first step, he omitted it from the list of 
belongings that were confiscated from me. ("You can keep it.") He thereupon ordered me to be 
searched again, knowing all the time that it was all I had in my pockets. "Aha! what's that? Take it 
away!" And to prevent my protests: "Put him in the punish- ment cell!" (What Tsarist gendarme 
would have dared behave that way toward a defender of the Fatherland?) 

Every interrogator was given an allowance of a certain number of cigarettes to encourage those 
willing to confess and to reward stool pigeons. Some of them kept all the cigarettes for themselves. 

Even in accounting for hours spent in interrogating, they used to cheat. They got higher pay for night 



work. And we used to note the way they wrote down more hours on the night interroga- tions than 
they really spent. 

Interrogator Fyodorov (Reshety Station, P. O. Box No. 235) stole a wristwatch while searching the 
apartment of the free person Korzukhin. During the Leningrad blockade Interrogator Nikolai 
Fyodorovich Kruzhkov told Yelizaveta Viktorovna Strakhovich, wife of the prisoner he was 
interrogating, K. I. Strakhovich: "I want a quilt. Bring it to me!" When she replied: "All our warm 
things are in the room they've sealed," he went to her apart- ment and, without breaking the State 
Security seal on the lock, unscrewed the entire doorknob. "That's how the MGB works," he 
explained gaily. And he went in and began to collect the warm things, shoving some crystal in his 
pocket at the same time. She herself tried to get whatever she could out of the room, but he stopped 
her. "That's enough for you!" — and he kept on raking in the booty. 

[In 1954, although her husband, who had forgiven them everything, in- eluding a death sentence that 
had been commuted, kept trying to persuade her not to pursue the matter, this energetic and 
implacable woman testified against Kruzhkov at a trial. Because this was not Kruzhkov's first 
offense, and because the interests of the Organs had been violated, he was given a twenty-five-year 
sentence. Has he really been in the jug that long?] 

There's no end to such cases. One could issue a thousand "White Papers" (and beginning in 1918 
too). One would need only to question systematically former prisoners and their wives. Maybe there 
are and were bluecaps who never stole anything or appropriated anything for themselves — but I find 
it impossible to imagine one. I simply do not understand: given the bluecaps' philosophy of life, what 
was there to restrain them if they liked some particular thing? Way back at the beginning of the 
thirties, when all of us were marching around in the German uniforms of the Red Youth Front and 
were building the First Five- Year Plan, they were spending their evenings in salons like the one in 
the apartment of Konkordiya losse, behaving like members of the nobility or Westerners, and their 
lady friends were showing off their foreign clothes. Where were they getting those clothes? 

Here are their family names — and one might almost think they were hired because of those names. 
For example, in the Kemerovo Provincial State Security Administration, there were: a prosecutor 
named Trutnev, "drone"; a chief of the interroga- tion section Major Shkurkin, "self-server"; his 
deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Balandin, "soupy"; and an interrogator Skorokhvatov, "quick- grabber." 
When all is said and done, one could not invent names more appropriate. And they were all right 
there together! (I need hardly bother to mention again Volkopyalov — "wolf- skin-stretcher" — or 
Grabishchenko — "plunderer.") Are we to assume that nothing at all is expressed in people's family 
names and such a concentration of them? 

Again the prisoner's faulty memory. I. Komeyev has forgotten the name of the colonel of State 

Security who was also Kon- kordiya fosse's friend (they both knew her, it turned out), who was in 
the Vladimir Detention Prison at the same time as Korneyev. This colonel was a living embodiment 
of the instincts for power and personal gain. At the beginning of 1945, during the height of the "war 
booty" period, he got himself assigned to that section of the Organs, headed by Abakumov himself, 
which was supposed to keep watch over the plundering — in other words, they tried to grab off as 
much as possible for themselves, not for the state. (And succeeded brilliantly.) Our hero pulled in 
whole freight car loads and built several dachas, one of them in Klin. After the war he operated on 
such a scale that when he arrived at the Novosibirsk Station he ordered all the customers chased out 
of the station restaurant and had girls and women rounded up and forced to dance naked on the tables 
to entertain him and his drinking companions. He would have gotten away with this too, but he 
violated another important rule. Like Kruzh- kov, he went against his own kind. Kruzhkov deceived 
the Organs. And this colonel did perhaps even worse. He laid bets on which wives he could seduce, 
and not just ordinary wives, but the wives of his colleagues in the Security police. And he was not 
forgiven! He was sentenced to a political prison under Article 58, and was serving out his time 
fuming at their having dared to arrest him. He had no doubt they would change their minds. (And 



perhaps they did.) 

That dread fate — to be thrown into prison themselves — was not such a rarity for the bluecaps. There 
was no genuine insur- ance against it. But somehow these men were slow to sense the les- sons of 
the past. Once again this was probably due to their hav- ing no higher powers of reason; their low- 
grade intellect would tell them: It happens only rarely; very few get caught; it may pass me by; my 
friends won't let me down. 

Friends, as a matter of fact, did try not to leave their friends in a bad spot. They had their own 
unspoken understanding: at least to arrange favorable conditions fox friends. (This was the case, for 
example, with Colonel I. Y. Vorobyev in the Marfino Special Prison, and with the same V. N. Ilin 
who was in the Lubyanka for more than eight years.) Thanks to this caste spirit, those arrested 
singly, as a result of only personal shortcomings, usually did not do too badly. And that was how 
they were able to justify their sense of immunity from punishment in their day- to-day work in the 
service. But there were several known cases when camp Security officers were tossed into ordinary 
camps to serve out their sentences. There were even instances when as prisoners they ran into zeks 
who had once been under their thumb and came off badly in the encounter. For example, Security of- 
ficer Munshin, who cherished a particularly violent hatred toward the 58's in camp and had relied 
heavily on the support of the blatnye, the habitual thieves, was driven right under the board bunks by 
those very same thieves. However, we have no way to learn more details about these cases in order 
to be able to explain them. 

But those gaybisty — the State Security officers — who got caught in a wave were in very serious 
danger. (They had their own waves!) A wave is a natural catastrophe and is even more power- ful 
than the Organs themselves. In this situation, no one was going to help anyone else lest he be drawn 
into the same abyss him- self. 

The possibility did exist, however, if you were well informed and had a sharp Chekist sensitivity, of 
getting yourself out from under the avalanche, even at the last minute, by proving that you had no 
connection with it. Thus it was that Captain Sayenko (not the Kharkov Chekist carpenter of 1918- 
1919, who was famous for executing prisoners with his pistol, punching holes in bodies with his 
saber, breaking shinbones in two, flattening heads with weights, and branding people with hot irons, 
but, perhaps, a rel- ative) was weak enough to marry for love an ex-employee of the Chinese Eastern 
Railroad named Kokhanskaya. And suddenly he found out, right at the beginning of the wave, that 
all the Chinese Eastern Railroad people were going to be arrested. At this time he was head of the 
Security Operations Department of the Arch- angel GPU. He acted without losing a moment. How? 
He arrested his own beloved wife! And not on the basis of her being one of the Chinese Eastern 
Railroad people — but on the basis of a case he himself cooked up. Not only did he save himself, but 
he moved up and became the Chief of the Tomsk Province NKVD. 

[This, too, is a theme for a story — and how many more there are in this field! Maybe someone will 
make use of them someday.] 

The waves were generated by the Organs' hidden law of self- renewal — a small periodic ritual 
sacrifice so that the rest could take on the appearance of being purified. The Organs had to change 
personnel faster than the normal rate of human growth and aging would ensure. Driven by that same 
implacable urgency that forces the sturgeon to swim upriver and perish in the shallows, to be 
replaced by schools of small fry, a certain number of "schools" of gaybisty had to sacrifice 
themselves. This law was easily apparent to a higher intelligence, but the bluecaps them- selves did 
not want to accept the fact of its existence and make provision for it. Yet, at the hour appointed in 
their stars, the kings of the Organs, the aces of the Organs, and even the minis- ters themselves laid 
their heads down beneath their own guil- lotine. 

Yagoda took one such school of fish along with him. No doubt many of those whose glorious names 



we shall come to admire when we come to the White Sea Canal were taken in this school and their 
names thenceforward expunged from the poetic eulogies. 

Very shortly, a second school accompanied the short-lived Yezhov. Some of the finest cavaliers of 
1937 vanished in this one. (Yet one ought not to exaggerate their number. It did not by any means 
include all the best.) Yezhov himself was beaten during his interrogation. He was pitiful. And Gulag 
was orphaned dur- ing this wave of arrests. For example, arrested with Yezhov were the Chief of the 
Financial Administration of Gulag, the Chief of the Medical Administration of Gulag, the Chief of 
the Guard Service of Gulag (VOKhR), [VOKhR: Militarized Guard Service, formerly the Internal 
Guard Service of the Republic. ] and even the Chief of the Security Operations Department of Gulag, 
who oversaw the work of the camp "godfathers." 

And later there was the school of Beria. 

The corpulent, conceited Abakumov had fallen earlier, sepa- rately. 

Someday — if the archives are not destroyed — ^the historians of the Organs will recount all this step 
by step, with all the figures and all the glittering names. 

Therefore, I am going to write only briefly about Ryumin and Abakumov, a story I learned only by 
chance. I will not repeat what I have already written about them in The First Circle. 

Ryumin had been raised to the heights by Abakumov and was very close to him. At the end of 1952, 
he came to Abakumov with the sensational report that Professor Etinger, a physician, had confessed 
to intentional malpractice when treating Zhdanov and Shcherbakov, with the purpose of killing them. 
Abakumov re- fused to believe him. He knew the whole cookery and decided Ryumin was getting 
too big for his britches. (But Ryumin had a better idea of what Stalin wanted!) To verify the story, 
they arranged to cross-question Etinger that very evening. But each of them drew different 
conclusions from his testimony. Abakumov concluded that there was no such thing as a "doctors' 
case." And Ryumin concluded that there was. A second attempt at verifica- tion was to take place the 
following morning, but, thanks to the miraculous attributes of the Nighttime Institution, Etinger died 
that very night! In the morning, Ryumin, bypassing Abakumov and without his knowledge, 
telephoned the Central Committee and asked for an appointment with Stalin! (My own opinion, 
however, is that this was not his most decisive step. Ryumin's decisive action, following which his 
life hung in the balance, was in not going along with Abakumov earlier. And perhaps in hav- ing 
Etinger killed that same night. Who knows the secrets of those courtyards! Had Ryumin's contact 
with Stalin begun earlier perhaps?) Stalin received Ryumin, set in motion the "doctors' case" and 
arrested Abakumov. From that point on it would seem that Ryumin conducted the "doctors' case" 
independently of and even despite Beria! There were signs before Stalin's death that Beria was in 
danger — and perhaps it was he who arranged to have Stalin done away with. One of the first acts of 
the new government was to dismiss the "doctors' case." At that time Ryumin was arrested (while 
Beria was still in power), hut Abakumov was not released! At the Lubyanka a new order of things 
was introduced. And for the first time in its entire existence a prosecutor crossed its threshold — D. 
Terekhov. Imprisoned, Ryumin was fidgety and subservient: "I am not guilty. I am here for no 
reason." He asked to be interrogated. As was his custom, he was sucking a hard candy at the time, 
and when Terekhov rebuked him for it, he spat it out on the palm of his hand. "Pardon me." As we 
have already reported, Abakumov roared with laugh- ter: "Hocus-pocus!" Terekhov showed him the 
document author- izing him to inspect the Internal Prison of the Ministry of State Security. 
Abakumov brushed it away: "You can forge five hun- dred of those!" As an organizational "patriot," 
he was principally offended not by being in prison but by this encroachment on the power of the 
Organs, which could not be subordinate to anything in the world! In July, 1953, Ryumin was tried in 
Moscow and shot. And Abakumov remained in prison! During one interroga- tion he said to 
Terekhov: "Your eyes are too beautiful. / am going to be sorry to have to shoot you! Leave my case 
alone. Leave it while you still have time." 



[This is true. On the whole, D. Terekhov is a man of uncommon strength of will and courage (which 
were what was required in bringing the big Stalinists to justice in an uneasy situation). And he 
evidently has a lively mind as well. If Khrushchev's reforms had been more thoroughgoing and 
consistent, Tere- khov might have excelled in carrying them out. That is how historic leaders fail to 
materialize in our country.] 

On another occasion Terekhov called him in and handed him the newspaper which carried the 
announcement of Beria's exposure. At the time this was virtually a cosmic upheaval. Abakumov read 
it and, with not so much as the twitch of an eyebrow, he turned the page and started to read the sports 
news! On another occasion, during an interrogation in the presence of a high-ranking gaybist who 
had, in the recent past, been his subordinate, Abakumov asked him: "How could you have permitted 
the investigation of the Beria case to be con- ducted by the prosecutor's office instead of by the 
MGB?" (Every- thing in his own domain kept nagging him.) He went on: "Do you really believe 
they are going to put me, the Minister of State Security, on trial?" The answer was "Yes." And he 
replied: "Then put on your top hat! The Organs are finished!" (He was, of course, too pessimistic, 
uneducated courier that he was.) But when he was in the Lubyanka, Abakumov was not afraid of 
being tried; he was afraid of being poisoned. (This, too, showed what a worthy son of the Organs he 
was!) He started to reject the prison food altogether and would eat only eggs that he bought from the 
prison store. (In this case, he simply lacked technical imagination. He thought one couldn't poison 
eggs.) The only books he borrowed from the well-stocked Lubyanka library were the works of, 
believe it or not, Stalin! (Who had imprisoned him.) But in all likelihood this was for show rather 
than the result of any calculation that Stalin's adherents would gain power. He spent two years in 
prison. Why didn't they release him? The question is not a na'ive one. In terms of his crimes against 
humanity, he was over his head in blood. But he was not the only one! And all the others came out of 
it safe and sound. There is some hidden secret here too: there is a vague rumor that in his time he had 
personally beaten Khrushchev's daughter-in-law Lyuba Sedykh, the wife of Khru- shchev's older 
son, who had been condemned to a punishment bat- taUon in Stalin's time and who died as a result. 
And, so goes the rumor, this was why, having been imprisoned by Stalin, he was tried — in 
Leningrad — under Khrushchev and shot on December 18, 1954. 

[Here is one more of his eccentricities as a VIP: he used to change into civilian clothes and walk 
around Moscow with Kuznetsov, the head of his bodyguard, and whenever he felt like it, he would 
hand out money from the Cheka operations funds. Does not this smell of Old Russia — charity for the 
sake of one's soul?] 

But Abakumov had no real reason to be depressed: the Organs still didn't perish because of that. As 
the folk saying goes: If you speak for the wolf speak against him as well. Where did this wolf-tribe 
appear from among our people? 

Does it really stem from our own roots? Our own blood? 
It is our own. 

And just so we don't go around flaunting too proudly the white mantle of the just, let everyone ask 
himself: "If my life had turned out differently, might I myself not have become just such an ex- 
ecutioner?" 

It is a dreadful question if one really answers it honestly. 

I remember my third year at the university, in the fall of 1938. We young men of the Komsomol 
were summoned before the Dis- trict Komsomol Committee not once but twice. Scarcely bothering 
to ask our consent, they shoved an application form at us: You've had enough physics, mathematics, 
and chemistry; it's more im- portant to your country for you to enter the NKVD school. (That's the 
way it always is. It isn't just some person who needs you; it is always your Motherland. And it is 



always some official or other who speaks on behalf of your Motherland and who knows what she 
needs.) 

One year before, the District Committee had conducted a drive among us to recruit candidates for the 
air force schools. We avoided getting involved that time too, because we didn't want to leave the 
university — but we didn't sidestep recruitment then as stubbornly as we did this time. 

Twenty-five years later we could think: Well, yes, we under- stood the sort of arrests that were being 
made at the time, and the fact that they were torturing people in prisons, and the slime they were 
trying to drag us into. But it isn't true! After all, the Black Marias were going through the streets at 
night, and we were the same young people who were parading with banners during the day. How 
could we know anything about those arrests and why should we think about them? All the provincial 
leaders had been removed, but as far as we were concerned it didn't mat- ter. Two or three professors 
had been arrested, but after all they hadn't been our dancing partners, and it might even be easier to 
pass our exams as a result. Twenty-year-olds, we marched in the ranks of those born the year the 
Revolution took place, and because we were the same age as the Revolution, the brightest of futures 
lay ahead. 

It would be hard to identify the exact source of that inner intuition, not founded on rational 
argument, which prompted our refusal to enter the NKVD schools. It certainly didn't derive from the 
lectures on historical materialism we listened to: it was clear from them that the struggle against the 
internal enemy was a crucial battlefront, and to share in it was an honorable task. Our decision even 
ran counter to our material interests: at that time the provincial university we attended could not 
promise us any- thing more than the chance to teach in a rural school in a remote area for miserly 
wages. The NKVD school dangled before us special rations and double or triple pay. Our feelings 
could not be put into words — and even if we had found the words, fear would have prevented our 
speaking them aloud to one another. It was not our minds that resisted but something inside our 
breasts. Peo- pie can shout at you from all sides: "You must!" And your own head can be saying 
also: "You must!" But inside your breast there is a sense of revulsion, repudiation. I don't want to. It 
makes me feel sick. Do what you want without me; I want no part of it. 

This came from very far back, quite likely as far back as Lermontov, from those decades of Russian 
life when frankly and openly there was no worse and no more vile branch of the service for a decent 
person than that of the gendarmerie. No, it went back even further. Without even knowing it 
ourselves, we were ran- somed by the small change in copper that was left from the golden coins our 
great-grandfathers had expended, at a time when moral- ity was not considered relative and when the 
distinction between good and evil was very simply perceived by the heart. 

Still, some of us were recruited at that time, and I think that if they had really put the pressure on, 
they could have broken everybody's resistance. So I would like to imagine: if, by the time war broke 
out, I had already been wearing an NKVD officer's insignia on my blue tabs, what would I have 
become? Nowadays, of course, I can console myself by saying that my heart wouldn't have stood it, 
that I would have objected and at some point slammed the door. But later, lying on a prison bunk, I 
began to look back over my actual career as an officer and I was horrified. 

I did not move in one stride from being a student worn out by mathematics to officer's rank. Before 
becoming an officer I spent a half-year as a downtrodden soldier. And one might think I would have 
gotten through my thick skull what it was like always to obey people who were perhaps not worthy 
of your obedience and to do it on a hungry stomach to boot. Then for another half- year they tore me 
to pieces in officer candidate school. So I ought to have grasped, once and for all, the bitterness of 
service as a rank-and-file soldier and remembered how my hide froze and how it was flayed from my 
body. But did I? Not at all. For consolation, they pinned two little stars on my shoulder boards, and 
then a third, and then a fourth. And I forgot every bit of what it had been like! 



Had I at least kept my student's love of freedom? But, you see, we had never had any such thing. 
Instead, we loved forming up, we loved marches. 

I remember very well that right after officer candidate school I experienced the happiness of 
simplification, of being a military man and not having to think things through; the happiness of being 
immersed in the life everyone else lived, that was accepted in our military milieu; the happiness of 
forgetting some of the spiritual subtleties inculcated since childhood. 

We were constantly hungry in that school and kept looking around to see where we could grab an 
extra bite, and we watched one another enviously to see who was the cleverest. But most of all we 
were afraid we wouldn't manage to stay in until the time came to graduate and receive our officer's 
insignia. (They sent those who failed to the battle for Stalingrad.) And they trained us like young 
beasts, so as to infuriate us to the point where we would later want to take it out on someone else. 
We never got enough sleep because after taps, as punishment, we might be forced to go through the 
drill alone under the eyes of a sergeant. Or the entire squad might be routed out at night and made to 
form up because of one uncleaned boot: there he is, the bastard, and he'll keep on cleaning it, and 
until he gets a shine on it you're all going to stay standing there. 

In passionate anticipation of those insignia, we developed a tigerlike stride and a metallic voice of 
command. 

Then the officer's stars were fastened on our tabs. And only one month later, forming up my battery 
in the rear, I ordered a careless soldier named Berbenyev to march up and down after taps under the 
eyes of my insubordinate Sergeant Metlin. (And do you know, I had forgotten all about it until now. 
I honestly forgot about it for years! Only now, seated in front of this sheet of paper, have I 
remembered.) Some elderly colonel, who was an inspector, happened to be there, and he called me in 
and put me to shame. And I (and this after I'd left the university!) tried to justify my action on the 
grounds that it was what we had been taught in school. In other words, I meant: What humane views 
can there be, given the fact that we are in the army? 

(And the more so in the Organs.) 

Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig. 

I tossed out orders to my subordinates that I would not allow them to question, convinced that no 
orders could be wiser. Even at the front, where, one might have thought, death made equals of us all, 
my power soon convinced me that I was a superior human being. Seated there, I heard them out as 
they stood at attention. I interrupted them. I issued commands. I addressed fathers and grandfathers 
with the familiar, downgrading form of address — while they, of course, addressed me formally. I 
sent them out to repair wires under shellfire so that my superiors should not re- proach me. 
(Andreyashin died that way.) I ate my officer's ration of butter with rolls, without giving a thought as 
to why I had a right to it, and why the rank-and-file soldiers did not. I, of course, had a personal 
servant assigned to me — in polite terms, an "orderly" — whom I badgered one way or another and 
ordered to look after my person and prepare my meals separately from the soldiers'. (After all, the 
Lubyanka interrogators don't have order- lies — that's one thing you can't say about them.) I forced 
my soldiers to put their backs into it and dig me a special dugout at every new bivouac and to haul 
the heaviest beams to support it so that I should be as comfortable and safe as possible. And wait a 
minute, yes, my battery always had a guardhouse too. What kind of guardhouse could there be in the 
woods? It was a pit, of course, although a better one than those at the Gorokhovets division camps 
which I have described, because it had a roof and the man confined got a soldier's ration. Vyushkov 
was imprisoned there for losing his horse and Popkov for maltreating his carbine. Yes, just a 
moment, I can remember more. They sewed me a map case out of German hide — not human, but 
from a car seat. But I didn't have a strap for it, and I was unhappy about that. Then all of a sudden 
they saw some partisan commissar, from the local District Party Committee, wearing just the right 



kind of strap — and they took it away from him: we are the army; we have sen- iority! (Remember 
Senchenko, the Security officer, who stole a map case and a dispatch case?) Finally, I coveted that 
scarlet box, and I remember how they took it away and got it for me. 

That's what shoulder boards do to a human being. And where have all the exhortations of 
grandmother, standing before an ikon, gone! And where the young Pioneer's daydreams of future 
sacred Equality! 

And at the moment when my life was turned upside down and the SMERSH officers at the brigade 
command point tore off those cursed shoulder boards, and took my belt away and shoved me along 
to their automobile, I was pierced to the quick by worrying how, in my stripped and sorry state, I was 
going to make my way through the telephone operator's room. The rank and file must not see me in 
that condition! 

The day after my arrest my march of penance began: the most recent "catch" was always sent from 
the army counterintelligence center to the counterintelligence headquarters of the front. They herded 
us on foot from Osterode to Brodnica. 

When they led me out of the punishment cell, there were al- ready seven prisoners there in three and 
a half pairs standing with their backs to me. Six of them had on well-worn Russian Army overcoats 
which had been around for a long time, and on their backs had been painted, in indelible white paint, 
"SU," meaning "Soviet Union." I already knew that mark, having seen it more than once on the 
backs of our Russian POW's as they wandered sadly and guiltily toward the army that was approach- 
ing to free them. They had been freed, but there was no shared happiness in that liberation. Their 
compatriots glowered at them even more grimly than at the Germans. And as soon as they crossed 
the front lines, they were arrested and imprisoned. 

The seventh prisoner was a German civilian in a black three- piece suit, a black overcoat, and black 
hat. He was over fifty, tall, well groomed, and his white face had been nurtured on gentleman's food. 

I completed the fourth pair, and the Tatar sergeant, chief of the convoy, gestured to me to pick up my 
sealed suitcase, which stood off to one side: It contained my officer's equipment as well as all the 
papers which had been seized as evidence when I was arrested. 

What did he mean, carry my suitcase? He, a sergeant, wanted me, an officer, to pick up my suitcase 
and carry it? A large, heavy object? Despite the new regulations? While beside me six men from the 
ranks would be marching empty-handed? And one representative of a conquered nation? 

I did not express this whole complex set of ideas to the sergeant. I merely said: "I am an officer. Let 
the German carry it." 

None of the prisoners turned around at my words: turning around was forbidden. Only my mate in 
the fourth pair, also an "SU," looked at me in astonishment. (When he had been cap- tured, our army 
wasn't yet like that.) 

But the sergeant from counterintelligence was not surprised. Even though I was not, of course, an 
officer in his eyes, still his indoctrination and mine coincided. He summoned the innocent German 
and ordered him to carry the suitcase. It was just as well the latter had not understood our 
conversation. 

The rest of us put our hands behind our backs. The former POW's did not have even one bag among 
them. They had left the Motherland with empty hands and that is exactly how they re- turned to her. 
So our column marched off, four pairs in file. We did not converse with our convoy. And it was 
absolutely forbid- den to talk among ourselves whether on the march, during a halt, or at overnight 



stops. As accused prisoners we were required to move as though separated by invisible partitions, as 
though suf- focated, each in his own soUtary -confinement cell. 

The early spring weather was changeable. At times a thin mist hung in the air, and even on the firm 
highway the liquid mud squelched dismally beneath our boots. At times the heavens cleared and the 
soft yellow sun, still uncertain of its talent, warmed the already thawing hillocks and showed us with 
perfect clarity the world we were about to leave. At times a hostile squall flew to the attack and tore 
from the black clouds a snow that was not really even white, which beat icily on faces and backs and 
feet, soaking through our overcoats and our footcloths. 

Six backs ahead of me, six constant backs. There was more than enough time to examine and re- 
examine the crooked, hide- ous brands "SU" and the shiny black cloth on the German's back. There 
was more than enough time to reconsider my former life and to comprehend my present one. But I 
couldn't. I had been smashed on the head with an oak club — but I still didn't com- prebend. 

Six backs! There was neither approval nor condemnation in their swing. 

The German soon tired. He shifted the suitcase from hand to hand, grabbed at his heart, made signs 
to the convoy that he couldn't carry it any further. At that point his neighbor in the pair, a POW who 
only a little while before had experienced God knows what in German captivity (but, perhaps, mercy 
too), took the suitcase of his own free will and carried it. 

After that the other POW's carried it in turn, also without being ordered to; and then the German 
again. 

All but me. 

And no one said a word to me. 

At one point we met a long string of empty carts. The drivers studied us with interest, and some of 
them jumped up to full height on top of the carts and stared. I understood very quickly that their 
stares and their malice were directed toward me. I was very sharply set off from the others: my coat 
was new, long, and cut to fit my figure snugly. My tabs had not yet been torn off, and in the filtered 
sunlight my buttons, also not cut off, burned with the glitter of cheap gold. It was easy to see I was 
an officer, with a look of newness, too, and newly taken into custody. Per- haps this very fall from 
the heights stimulated them and gave them pleasure, suggesting some gleam of justice, but more 
likely they could not get it into their heads, stuffed with political in- doctrination, that one of their 
own company commanders could be arrested in this way, and they all decided unanimously I had 
come from the other side. 

"Aha, the Vlasov bastard got caught, did he! Shoot the rat!" 

They were vehement in their rear-line wrath (the most intense patriotism always flourishes in the 
rear), and they added a good deal more in mother oaths. 

They regarded me as some kind of international operator who had, nonetheless, been caught — and as 
a result the advance at the front would move along faster and the war would come to an end sooner. 

How was I to answer them? I was forbidden to utter a single word, and I would have had to explain 
my entire life to each and every one of them. What could I do to make them understand that I was 
not a spy, a saboteur? That I was their friend? That it was because of them that I was here? I smiled. 
Looking up at them, I smiled at them from a column of prisoners under escort! But my bared teeth 
seemed to them the worst kind of mockery, and they shook their fists and bellowed insults at me 
even more violently than before. 



I smiled in pride that I had been arrested not for stealing, nor treason, nor desertion, but because I 
had discovered through my power of reasoning the evil secrets of Stalin. I smiled at the thought that 
I wanted, and might still be able, to effect some small remedies and changes in our Russian way of 
Ufe. 

But all that time my suitcase was being carried by others. 

And I didn't even feel remorseful about it! And if my neighbor, whose sunken cheeks were already 
covered with a soft two-week growth of beard and whose eyes were filled to overflowing with 
suffering and knowledge, had then and there reproached me in the clearest of clear Russian words 
for having disgraced the honor of a prisoner by appealing to the convoy for help and had accused me 
of haughtiness, of setting myself above the rest of them, I would not have understood him! I simply 
would not have under- stood what he was talking about. I was an officer! 

And if seven of us had to die on the way, and the eighth could have been saved by the convoy, what 
was to keep me from crying out: "Sergeant! Save me. I am an officer!" 

And that's what an officer is even when his shoulder boards aren't blue! 

And if they are blue? If he has been indoctrinated to believe that even among other officers he is the 
salt of the earth? And that he knows more than others and is entrusted with more res- ponsibility than 
others and that, consequently, it is his duty to force a prisoner's head between his legs, and then to 
shove him like that into a pipe . . . 

Why shouldn't he? 

I credited myself with unselfish dedication. But meanwhile I had been thoroughly prepared to be an 
executioner. And if I had gotten into an NKVD school under Yezhov, maybe I would have matured 
just in time for Beria. 

So let the reader who expects this book to be a political expose slam its covers shut right now. 

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil 

deeds, and it were neces- sary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the 
Une dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to 
destroy a piece of his own heart? 

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by 
exuberant evil and some- times it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the 
same human being is, at various ages, under various cir- cumstances, a totally different human being. 
At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn't change, and to that 
name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil. 

Socrates taught us: Know thyself! 

Confronted by the pit into which we are about to toss those who have done us harm, we halt, stricken 
dumb: it is after all only because of the way things worked out that they were the executioners and 
we weren't. 

If Malyuta Skuratov had summoned us, we, too, probably would have done our work well! 
From good to evil is one quaver, says the proverb. 



And correspondingly, from evil to good. 



From the moment when our society was convulsed by the reminder of those illegalities and tortures, 
they began on all sides to explain, to write, to protest: Good people were there too — meaning in the 
NKVD-MGB! 

We know which "good" people they are talking about: they were the ones who whispered to the old 
Bolsheviks: "Don't weaken," or even sneaked a sandwich in to them, and who kicked all the rest 
around wherever they found them. But weren't there also some who rose above the Party — who were 
good in a general, human sense? 

Broadly speaking, they should not have been there. The Organs avoided employing such people, 
eliminating them at the recruit- ment stage. And such people played their hand shrewdly so as to get 
out of it. 

[ During the war, a certain Leningrad aviator, after being discharged from the hospital in Ryazan, 
went to a TB clinic and begged: "Please find something wrong with me! I'm under orders to go into 
the Organs!" The radiologists dreamed up a touch of TB for him — and the Organs dropped him 
posthaste.] 

Whoever got in by mistake either adjusted to the milieu or else was thrown out, or eased out, or even 
fell across the rails himself. Still . . . were there no good people left there? 

In Kishinev, a young lieutenant gaybist went to Father Viktor Shipovalnikov a full month before he 
was arrested: "Get away from here, go away, they plan to arrest you!" (Did he do this on his own, or 
did his mother send him to warn the priest?) After the arrest, this young man was assigned to Father 
Viktor as an escort guard. And he grieved for him: "Why didn't you go away?" 

Or here's another. I had a platoon commander named Lieuten- ant Ovsyannikov. At the front no one 
was closer to me than he was. During half the war we ate from the same pot; even under enemy 
shellfire we would gulp down our food between explosions, so the stew wouldn't get cold. He was a 
peasant lad with a clean soul and a view of life so undistorted that neither officer candidate school 
nor being an officer had spoiled him in any degree. He even did what he could to soften my hard 
edges in many ways. Throughout his service as an officer he concentrated on one thing only: 
preserving the lives and strength of his soldiers, many of whom were no longer young. He was the 
first to tell me what the Russian villages were like then and what the collective farms were like. He 
talked about all this without resentment, without protest, very simply and straightforwardly — just as 
a forest pool reflects the image of a tree and all its branches, even the smallest. He was deeply 
shocked by my arrest. He wrote me a combat reference containing the highest praise and got the 
divisional commander to sign it. After he was demobilized he continued to try to help me, through 
my relatives. And this, mind you, was in 1947, which was not very different from 1937. At my 
interrogation I had many reasons to be afraid on his account, especially lest they read my "War 
Diary," which contained the stories he'd told me. When I was rehabilitated in 1957, 1 very much 
wanted to find him. I remembered his village address and wrote once, and then again, but there was 
no reply. I discovered one thread I could follow — that he had graduated from the Yaroslavl 
Pedagogical Institute. When I inquired there, they replied: "He was sent to work in the Organs of 
State Security." Fine! All the more interesting! I wrote to him at his city address, but there was no 
reply. Several years passed and Ivan Denisovich was published. Well, I thought, now he'll turn up. 
No! Three years later I asked one of my Yaroslavl correspondents to go to him and personally hand 
him a letter. My correspondent did as I asked and wrote me: "Evidently he has never read Ivan 
Denisovich." And truly, why should they know how things go with prisoners after they've been 
sentenced? This time Ovsyannikov couldn't keep silent any longer. He wrote: "After the Institute 
they offered me work in the Organs, and it seemed to me I would be just as successful there." (What 
did he mean, successful?) "I cannot say that I have prospered remark- ably in my new walk of life. 
There are some things I did not like, but I work hard, and, if I am not mistaken, I shall not let my 
comrades down." (And that's the justification — comradeship!) He ended: "I no longer think about the 



future." 



And that is all. Allegedly, he had not received my previous letters. Evidently, he doesn't want to see 
me. (But if we had met, I think this would have been a better chapter.) In Stalin's last years he had 
already become an interrogator — during those very years when they handed out a twenty-five -year 
sentence to every- one who came along. How did everything in his consciousness recircuit itself? 
How did everything black out? But remembering the once selfless, dedicated boy, as fresh as spring 
water, can I possibly believe that everything in him changed beyond recall, that there are no living 
tendrils left? 

When the interrogator Goldman gave Vera Korneyeva the "206" form on nondisclosure to sign, she 
began to catch on to her rights, and then she began to go into the case in detail, involy- ing as it did 
all seventeen members of their "religious group." Goldman raged, but he had to let her study the file. 
In order not to be bored waiting for her, he led her to a large office, where half a dozen employees 
were sitting, and left her there. At first she read quietly, but then a conversation began — perhaps 
because the others were bored — and Vera launched aloud into a real religious sermon. (One would 
have had to know her to ap- predate this to the full. She was a luminous person, with a lively mind 
and a gift of eloquence, even though in freedom she had been no more than a lathe operator, a stable 
girl, and a housewife.) They listened to her impressively, now and then ask- ing questions in order to 
clarify something or other. It was catch- ing them from an unexpected side of things. People came in 
from other offices, and the room filled up. Even though they were only typists, stenographers, file 
clerks, and not interrogators, in 1946 this was still their milieu, the Organs. It is impossible to recon- 
struct her monologue. She managed to work in all sorts of things, including the question of "traitors 
of the Motherland." Why were there no traitors in the 1812 War of the Fatherland, when there was 
still serfdom? It would have been natural to have traitors then! But mostly she spoke about religious 
faith and religious believers. Formerly, she declared, unbridled passions were the basis for 
everything — "Steal the stolen goods" — and, in that state of affairs, religious believers were naturally 
a hindrance to you. But now, when you want to build and prosper in this world, why do you 
persecute your best citizens? They represent your most precious material: after all, believers don't 
need to be watched, they do not steal, and they do not shirk. Do you think you can build a just 
society on a foundation of self-serving and envious people? Everything in the country is falling 
apart. Why do you spit in the hearts of your best people? Separate church and state properly and do 
not touch the church; you will not lose a thing thereby. Are you materialists? In that case, put your 
faith in education — in the possibility that it will, as they say, disperse religious faith. But why arrest 
people? At this point Goldman came in and started to interrupt rudely. But everyone shouted at him: 
"Oh, shut up! Keep quiet! Go ahead, woman, talk." (And how should they have addressed her? 
Citizeness? Comrade? Those forms of address were forbidden, and these people were bound by the 
conventions of Soviet life. But "woman" — that was how Christ had spoken, and you couldn't go 
wrong there.) And Vera continued in the presence of her interrogator. 

So there in the MGB office those people listened to Korneyeva — and why did the words of an 
insignificant prisoner touch them so near the quick? 

That same D. Terekhov I mentioned earlier remembers to this day the first prisoner he sentenced to 
death. "I was sorry for him." His memory obviously clings to something that came from his heart. 
(But after that first one, he forgot many and no longer kept count any more.) 

[An episode with Terekhov: Attempting to prove to me the fairness of the judicial system under 
Khrushchev, he energetically struck the plate-glass desk top with his hand and cut his wrist on the 
edge. He rang for help. His subordi- nates were at the ready. The senior officer on duty brought him 
iodine and hydrogen peroxide. Continuing the conversation, he helplessly held dampened cotton to 
the wound: it appears that his blood coagulates poorly. And thus God showed him clearly the 
limitations of the human being! And he had de- Uvered verdicts, imposed death sentences on others.] 



No matter how icy the jailers in the Big House in Leningrad, the innermost nucleus of the nucleus of 

the heart — for a nucleus has its own nucleus — had to continue to exist, did it not? N. P va recalls 

the time when she was being taken to inter- rogation by an impassive, silent woman guard with 
unseeing eyes — when suddenly the bombs began to explode right next to the Big House and it 
sounded as if at the next moment they would fall directly on them. The terrified guard threw her 
arms around her prisoner and embraced her, desperate for human companion- ship and sympathy. 
Then the bombing stopped. And her eyes became unseeing again. "Hands behind your back! Move 
along." 

Well, of course, there was no great merit in that — to become a human being at the moment of death. 
Similarly, loving one's own children is no proof of virtue. (People often try to excuse scoundrels by 
saying: "He's a good family man!") The Chairman of the Supreme Court, I. T. Golyakov, is praised: 
he enjoyed digging in his garden, he loved books, he used to browse around used- and rare-book 
stores, he knew the work of Tolstoi, Koro- lenko, and Chekhov. Well, what did he learn from them? 
How many thousands did he destroy? Or, for example, that colonel, Konkordiya losse's friend, who 
had roared with laughter in the Vladimir Detention Prison at the memory of locking up a group of 
old Jews in an ice-filled root cellar, had been afraid of one thing only during all his debaucheries: 
that his wife might find out about them. She believed in him, regarded him as noble, and this faith of 
hers was precious to him. But do we dare accept that feeling as a bridgehead to virtue in his heart? 

And why is it that for nearly two hundred years the Security forces have hung onto the color of the 
heavens? That was what they wore in Lermontov's lifetime — "and you, blue uniforms!" Then came 
blue service caps, blue shoulder boards, blue tabs, and then they were ordered to make themselves 
less conspicuous, and the blue brims were hidden from the gratitude of the people and everything 
blue on heads and shoulders was made narrower — until what was left was piping, narrow rims . . . 
but still blue. 

Is this only a masquerade? 

Or is it that even blackness must, every so often, however rarely, partake of the heavens? 

It would be beautiful to think so. But when one learns, for example, the nature of Yagoda's striving 
toward the sacred . . . An eyewitness from the group around Gorky, who was close to Yagoda at the 
time, reports that in the vestibule of the bathhouse on Yagoda's estate near Moscow, ikons were 
placed so that Yagoda and his comrades, after undressing, could use them as targets for revolver 
practice before going in to take their baths. 

Just how are we to understand that? As the act of an evildoer? What sort of behavior is it? Do such 
people really exist? 

We would prefer to say that such people cannot exist, that there aren't any. It is permissible to 
portray evildoers in a story for children, so as to keep the picture simple. But when the great world 
literature of the past — Shakespeare, Schiller, Dickens — in- flates and inflates images of evildoers of 
the blackest shades, it seems somewhat farcical and clumsy to our contemporary per- ception. The 
trouble lies in the way these classic evildoers are pictured. They recognize themselves as evildoers, 
and they know their souls are black. And they reason: "I cannot live unless I do evil. So I'll set my 
father against my brother! I'll drink the vie- tim's sufferings until I'm drunk with them!" lago very 
precisely identifies his purposes and his motives as being black and bom of hate. 

But no; that's not the way it is! To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing 
is good, or else that it's a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the 
nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions. 

Macbeth's self -justifications were feeble — and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even lago was a 



little lamb too. The imagina- tion and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare's evildoers stopped short 
at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. 

Ideology — that is what gives evildoing its long- sought justifica- tion and gives the evildoer the 
necessary steadfastness and deter- mination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts 
seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but 
will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by 
invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; 
the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, 
brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations. 

Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experi- ence evildoing on a scale calculated in 
the millions. This cannot be denied, nor passed over, nor suppressed. How, then, do we dare insist 
that evildoers do not exist? And who was it that de- stroyed these millions? Without evildoers there 
would have been no Archipelago. 

There was a rumor going the rounds between 1918 and 1920 that the Petrograd Cheka, headed by 
Uritsky, and the Odessa Cheka, headed by Deich, did not shoot all those condemned to death but fed 
some of them alive to the animals in the city zoos. I do not know whether this is truth or calumny, or, 
if there were any such cases, how many there were. But I wouldn't set out to look for proof, either. 
Following the practice of the bluecaps, I would propose that they prove to us that this was 
impossible. How else could they get food for the zoos in those famine years? Take it away from the 
working class? Those enemies were going to die anyway, so why couldn't their deaths support the 
zoo economy of the Republic and thereby assist our march into the future? Wasn't it expedient? 

That is the precise line the Shakespearean evildoer could not cross. But the evildoer with ideology 
does cross it, and his eyes remain dry and clear. 

Physics is aware of phenomena which occur only at threshold magnitudes, which do not exist at all 
until a certain threshold encoded by and known to nature has been crossed. No matter how intense a 
yellow light you shine on a lithium sample, it will not emit electrons. But as soon as a weak bluish 
light begins to glow, it does emit them. (The threshold of the photoelectric effect has been crossed.) 
You can cool oxygen to 100 degrees below zero Centigrade and exert as much pressure as you want; 
it does not yield, but remains a gas. But as soon as minus 183 degrees is reached, it liquefies and 
begins to flow. 

Evidently evildoing also has a threshold magnitude. Yes, a human being hesitates and bobs back and 
forth between good and evil all his life. He slips, falls back, clambers up, repents, things begin to 
darken again. But just so long as the threshold of evildoing is not crossed, the possibility of returning 
remains, and he himself is still within reach of our hope. But when, through the density of evil 
actions, the result either of their own extreme degree or of the absoluteness of his power, he 
suddenly crosses that threshold, he has left humanity behind, and without, perhaps, the possibility of 
return. 

From the most ancient times justice has been a two-part concept: virtue triumphs, and vice is 
punished. 

We have been fortunate enough to live to a time when virtue, though it does not triumph, is 

nonetheless not always tormented by attack dogs. Beaten down, sickly, virtue has now been allowed 
to enter in all its tatters and sit in the corner, as long as it doesn't raise its voice. 

However, no one dares say a word about vice. Yes, they did mock virtue, but there was no vice in 
that. Yes, so-and-so many millions did get mowed down — but no one was to blame for it. And if 
someone pipes up: "What about those who ..." the answer comes from all sides, reproachfully and 



amicably at first: "What are you talking about, comrade! Why open old wounds?" 

[Even in connection with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the retired bluecaps living on 
pensions objected because the book might reopen the wounds of those who had been imprisoned in 
camp. Allegedly, they were the ones to be protected.] 

Then they go after you with an oaken club: "Shut up! Haven't you had enough yet? You think you've 
been rehabilitated!" 

In that same period, by 1966, eighty-six thousand Nazi crimi- nals had been convicted in West 
Germany. 22 

[Meanwhile, in East Germany, nothing of the sort is to be heard. Which means that there they have 
been shod with new shoes; they are valued in the service of the state.] 

And still we choke with anger here. We do not hesitate to devote to the subject page after newspaper 
page and hour after hour of radio time. We even stay after work to attend protest meetings and vote: 
"Too few! Eighty-six thousand are too few. And twenty years is too little! It must go on and on." 

And during the same period, in our own country (according to the reports of the Military Collegium 
of the Supreme Court) about ten men have been convicted. 

What takes place beyond the Oder and the Rhine gets us all worked up. What goes on in the environs 
of Moscow and behind the green fences near Sochi, or the fact that the murderers of our husbands 
and fathers ride through our streets and we make way for them as they pass, doesn't get us worked up 
at all, doesn't touch us. That would be "digging up the past." 

Meanwhile, if we translate 86,000 West Germans into our own terms, on the basis of comparative 
population figures, it would become one-quarter of a million. 

But in a quarter-century we have not tracked down anyone. We have not brought anyone to trial. It is 
their wounds we are afraid to reopen. And as a symbol of them all, the smug and stupid Molotov 
lives on at Granovsky No. 3, a man who has learned nothing at all, even now, though he is saturated 
with our blood and nobly crosses the sidewalk to seat himself in his long, wide automobile. 

Here is a riddle not for us contemporaries to figure out: Why is Germany allowed to punish its 
evildoers and Russia is not? What kind of disastrous path lies ahead of us if we do not have the 
chance to purge ourselves of that putrefaction rotting inside our body? What, then, can Russia teach 
the world? 

In the German trials an astonishing phenomenon takes place from time to time. The defendant clasps 

his head in his hands, refuses to make any defense, and from then on asks no conces- sions from the 
court. He says that the presentation of his crimes, revived and once again confronting him, has filled 
him with revulsion and he no longer wants to live. 

That is the ultimate height a trial can attain: when evil is so utterly condemned that even the criminal 
is revolted by it. 

A country which has condemned evil 86,000 times from the rostrum of a court and irrevocably 
condemned it in literature and among its young people, year by year, step by step, is purged of it. 

What are we to do? Someday our descendants will describe our several generations as generations of 
driveling do-nothings. First we submissively allowed them to massacre us by the mil- lions, and then 
with devoted concern we tended the murderers in their prosperous old age. 



What are we to do if the great Russian tradition of penitence is incomprehensible and absurd to 
them? What are we to do if the animal terror of hearing even one-hundredth part of all they subjected 
others to outweighs in their hearts any inclination to justice? If they cling greedily to the harvest of 
benefits they have watered with the blood of those who perished? 

It is clear enough that those men who turned the handle of the meat grinder even as late as 1937 are 
no longer young. They are fifty to eighty years old. They have lived the best years of their lives 
prosperously, well nourished and comfortable, so that it is too late for any kind of equal retribution 
as far as they are con- cemed. 

But let us be generous. We will not shoot them. We will not pour salt water into them, nor bury them 
in bedbugs, nor bridle them into a "swan dive," nor keep them on sleepless "stand-up" for a week, 
nor kick them with jackboots, nor beat them with rubber truncheons, nor squeeze their skulls in iron 
rings, nor push them into a cell so that they lie atop one another like pieces of baggage — we will not 
do any of the things they did! But for the sake of our country and our children we have the duty to 
seek them all out and bring them all to trial! Not to put them on trial so much as their crimes. And to 
compel each one of them to announce loudly: 

"Yes, I was an executioner and a murderer." 

And if these words were spoken in our country only one- quarter of a million times (a just 
proportion, if we are not to fall behind West Germany), would it, perhaps, be enough? 

It is unthinkable in the twentieth century to fail to distinguish between what constitutes an 
abominable atrocity that must be prosecuted and what constitutes that "past" which "ought not to be 
stirred up." 

We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others. In 
keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we 
are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor 
reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the 
foundations of justice from beneath new generations. It is for this reason, and not because of the 
"weakness of indoc- trinational work," that they are growing up "indifferent." Young people are 
acquiring the conviction that foul deeds are never punished on earth, that they always bring 
prosperity. 

It is going to be uncomfortable, horrible, to live in such a country! 

Chapter 5 

First Cell, First Love 

How is one to take the title of this chapter? A cell and love in the same breath? Ah, well, probably it 
has to do with Lenin- grad during the blockade — and you were imprisoned in the Big House. In that 
case it would be very understandable. That's why you are still alive — because they shoved you in 
there. It was the best place in Leningrad — not only for the interrogators, who even lived there and 
had offices in the cellars in case of shelling. Joking aside, in Leningrad in those days no one washed 
and everyone's face was covered with a black crust, but in the Big House prisoners were given a hot 
shower every tenth day. Well, it's true that only the corridors were heated — for the jailers. The cells 
were left unheated, but after all, there were water pipes in the cells that worked and a toilet, and 
where else in Leningrad could you find that? And the bread ration was just like the ration outside — 
barely four and a half ounces. In addition, there was broth made from slaughtered horses once a day! 
And thin gruel once a day as well! 



It was a case of the cat's being envious of the dog's Ufe! But what about punishment cells? And what 
about the "supreme measure" — execution? No, that isn't what the chapter title is about. 

Not at all. 

You sit down and half-close your eyes and try to remember them all. How many different cells you 
were imprisoned in during your term! It is difficult even to count them. And in each one there were 
people, people. There might be two people in one, 150 in another. You were imprisoned for five 
minutes in one and all summer long in another. 

But in every case, out of all the cells you've been in, your first cell is a very special one, the place 
where you first encountered others like yourself, doomed to the same fate. All your life you will 
remember it with an emotion that you otherwise experience only in remembering your first love. 
And those people, who shared with you the floor and air of that stone cubicle during those days 
when you rethought your entire life, will from time to time be recollected by you as members of your 
own family. 

Yes, in those days they were your only family. 

What you experience in your first interrogation cell parallels nothing in your entire previous life or 
your whole subsequent life. No doubt prisons have stood for thousands of years before you came 
along, and may continue to stand after you too — longer than one would like to think — but that first 
interrogation cell is unique and inimitable. 

Maybe it was a terrible place for a human being. A lice-laden, bedbug-infested lock-up, without 
windows, without ventilation, without bunks, and with a dirty floor, a box called a KPZ in the village 
soviet, at the police station, in the railroad station, or in some port. (The KPZ's and the DPZ's are 
scattered across the face of our land in the greatest abundance. There are masses of prisoners in 
them. ) 

[KPZ = Cell for Preliminary Detention. DPZ House of Preliminary Detention. In other words, 
where interrogations are conducted, not where sentences are served.] 

Or maybe it was "solitary" in the Archangel prison, where the glass had been smeared over with red 
lead so that the only rays of God's maimed light which crept in to you were crimson, and where a 15- 
watt bulb burned constantly in the ceiling, day and night. Or "solitary" in the city of Choibalsan, 
where, for six months at a time, fourteen of you were crowded onto seven square yards of floor space 
in such a way that you could only shift your bent legs in unison. Or it was one of the Lefortovo 
"psychological" cells, like No. Ill, which was painted black and also had a day-and-night 25-watt 
bulb, but was in all other respects like every other Lefortovo cell: asphalt floor; the heating valve out 
in the corridor where only the guards had access to it; and, above all, that interminable irritating roar 
from the wind tunnel of the neighboring Central Aero- and Hydrodynamics Institute — a roar one 
could not believe was unintentional, a roar which would make a bowl or cup vibrate so violently that 
it would slip off the edge of the table, a roar which made it useless to converse and during which one 
could sing at the top of one's lungs and the jailer wouldn't even hear. And then when the roar 
stopped, there would ensue a sense of reUef and felicity superior to freedom itself. 

But it was not the dirty floor, nor the murky walls, nor the odor of the latrine bucket that you loved — 

but those fellow prisoners with whom you about-faced at command, and that something which beat 
between your heart and theirs, and their sometimes astonishing words, and then, too, the birth within 
you, on that very spot, of free-floating thoughts you had so recently been unable to leap up or rise to. 

And how much it had cost you to last out until that first cell! You had been kept in a pit, or in a box, 
or in a cellar. No one had addressed a human word to you. No one had looked at you with a human 



gaze. All they did was to peck at your brain and heart with iron beaks, and when you cried out or 
groaned, they laughed. 

For a week or a month you had been an abandoned waif, alone among enemies, and you had already 
said good-bye to reason and to life; and you had already tried to kill yourself by "falling" from the 
radiator in such a way as to smash your brains against the iron cone of the valve. Then all of a 
sudden you were alive again, and were brought in to your friends. And reason returned to you. 

That's what your first cell is! 

You waited for that cell. You dreamed of it almost as eagerly as of freedom. Meanwhile, they kept 
shoving you around between cracks in the wall and holes in the ground, from Lefortovo into some 
legendary, diabolical Sukhanovka. 

Sukhanovka was the most terrible prison the MGB had. Its very name was used to intimidate 
prisoners; interrogators would hiss it threateningly. And you'd not be able to question those who had 
been there: either they were insane and talking only discon- nected nonsense, or they were dead. 

Sukhanovka was a former monastery, dating back to Catherine the Great. It consisted of two 
buildings — one in which prisoners served out their terms, and the other a structure that contained 
sixty -eight monks' cells and was used for interrogations. The journey there in a Black Maria took 
two hours, and only a hand- ful of people knew that the prison was really just a few miles from 
Lenin's Gorki estate and near the former estate of Zinaida Volkonskaya. The countryside 
surrounding it was beautiful. 

There they stunned the newly arrived prisoner with a stand-up punishment cell again so narrow that 
when he was no longer able to stand he had to sag, supported by his bent knees propped against the 
wall. There was no alternative. They kept prisoners thus for more than a day to break their resistance. 
But they ate tender, tasty food at Sukhanovka, which was like nothing else in the MGB — because it 
was brought in from the Architects' Rest Home. They didn't maintain a separate kitchen to prepare 
hogwash. However, the amount one architect would eat — includ- ing fried potatoes and meatballs — 
was divided among twelve prisoners. As a result the prisoners were not only always hungry but also 
exceedingly irritable. 

The cells were all built for two, but prisoners under interroga- tion were usually kept in them singly. 
The dimensions were five by six and a half feet. 

[To be absolutely precise, they were 156 centimeters by 209 centimeters. How do we know? 
Through a triumph of engineering calculation and a strong heart that even Sukhanovka could not 
break. The measurements were the work of Alexander D., who would not allow them to drive him to 
madness or despair. He resisted by striving to use his mind to calculate distances. In Lefortovo he 
counted steps, converted them into kilometers, remembered from a map how many kilometers it was 
from Moscow to the border, and then how many across all Europe, and how many across the 
Atlantic Ocean. He was sustained in this by the hope of returning to America. And in one year in 
Lefortovo solitary he got, so to speak, halfway across the Atlantic. Thereupon they took him to Su- 
khanovka. Here, realizing how few would survive to tell of it — and all our in- formation about it 
comes from him — he invented a method of measuring the cell. The numbers 10/22 were stamped on 
the bottom of his prison bowl, and he guessed that "10" was the diameter of the bottom and "22" the 
diameter of the outside edge. Then he pulled a thread from a towel, made himself a tape measure, 
and measured everything with it. Then he began to invent a way of sleeping standing up, propping 
his knees against the small chair, and of deceiv- ing the guard into thinking his eyes were open. He 
succeeded in this deception, and that was how he managed not to go insane when Ryumin kept him 
sleepless for a month.] 



Two little round stools were welded to the stone floor, like stumps, and at night, if the guard 
unlocked a cylinder lock, a shelf dropped from the wall onto each stump and remained there for 
seven hours (in other words, during the hours of interrogation, since there was no daytime 
interrogation at Sukhanovka at all), and a little straw mattress large enough for a child also dropped 
down. During the day, the stool was exposed and free, but one was forbidden to sit on it. In addition, 
a table lay, like an ironing board, on four upright pipes. The "fortochka" in the window — the small 
hinged pane for ventilation — was always closed except for ten minutes in the morning when the 
guard cranked it open. The glass in the little window was reinforced. There were never any exercise 
periods out of doors. Prisoners were taken to the toilet at 6 A.M. only — i.e., when no one's stomach 
needed it. There was no toilet period in the eve- ning. There were two guards for each block of seven 
cells, so that was why the prisoners could be under almost constant in- spection through the 
peephole, the only interruption being the time it took the guard to step past two doors to a third. And 
that was the purpose of silent Sukhanovka: to leave the prisoner not a single moment for sleep, not a 
single stolen moment for privacy. You were always being watched and always in their power. 

But if you endured the whole duel with insanity and all the trials of loneliness, and had stood firm, 
you deserved your first cell! And now when you got into it, your soul would heal. 

If you had surrendered, if you had given in and betrayed every- one, you were also ready for your 
first cell. But it would have been better for you not to have lived until that happy moment and to 
have died a victor in the cellar, without having signed a single sheet of paper. 

Now for the first time you were about to see people who were not your enemies. Now for the first 
time you were about to see others who were alive, who were traveling your road, and whom you 
could join to yourself with the joyous word "we." 

[And if this was in the Big House in Leningrad during the siege, you may also have seen cannibals. 
Those who had eaten human flesh, those who had traded in human livers from dissecting rooms, 
were for some reason kept by the MGB with the political prisoners.] 

Yes, that word which you may have despised out in freedom, when they used it as a substitute for 
your own individuality ("All of us, like one man!" Or: "We are deeply angered!" Or: "We demand!" 
Or: "We swear!"), is now revealed to you as something sweet: you are not alone in the world! Wise, 
spiritual beings — human beings — still exist. 

I had been dueling for four days with the interrogator, when the jailer, having waited until I lay down 
to sleep in my blindingly lit box, began to unlock my door. I heard him all right, but before he could 
say: "Get up! Interrogation!" I wanted to lie for another three-hundredths of a second with my head 
on the pillow and pretend I was sleeping. But, instead of the familiar command, the guard ordered: 
"Get up! Pick up your bedding!" 

Uncomprehending, and unhappy because this was my most precious time, I wound on my footcloths, 
put on my boots, my overcoat, my winter cap, and clasped the government-issue mat- tress in my 
arms. The guard was walking on tiptoe and kept signaling me not to make any noise as he led me 
down a corridor silent as the grave, through the fourth floor of the Lubyanka, past the desk of the 
section supervisor, past the shiny numbers on the cells and the olive-colored covers of the peepholes, 
and unlocked Cell 67. 1 entered and he locked it behind me immediately. 

Even though only a quarter of an hour or so had passed since the signal to go to sleep had been 
given, the period allotted the prisoners for sleeping was so fragile, and undependable, and brief that, 
by the time I arrived, the inhabitants of Cell 67 were already asleep on their metal cots with their 
hands on top of the blankets. 

[New measures of oppression, additions to the traditional prison regula- tions, were invented only 



gradually in the internal prisons of the GPU-NKVD- MGB. At the beginning of the twenties, 
prisoners were not subjected to this particular measure, and lights were turned off at night as in the 
ordinary world. But they began to keep the lights on, on the logical grounds that they needed to keep 
the prisoners in view at all times. (When they used to turn the lights on for inspection, it had been 
even worse.) Arms had to be kept outside the blanket, allegedly to prevent the prisoner from 
strangling himself beneath the blanket and thus escaping his just interrogation. It was demonstrated 
experi- mentally that in the winter a human being always wants to keep his arms under the 
bedclothes for warmth; consequently the measure was made permanent.] 

At the sound of the door opening, all three started and raised their heads for an instant. They, too, 
were waiting to learn which of them might be taken to interrogation. 

And those three lifted heads, those three unshaven, crumpled pale faces, seemed to me so human, so 
dear, that I stood there, hugging my mattress, and smiled with happiness. And they smiled. And what 
a forgotten look that was — after only one week! 

"Are you from freedom?" they asked me. (That was the question customarily put to a newcomer.) 
"Nooo," I replied. And that was a newcomer's usual first reply. 

They had in mind that I had probably been arrested recently, which meant that I came from freedom. 
And I, after ninety-six hours of interrogation, hardly considered that I was from "free- dom." Was I 
not already a veteran prisoner? Nonetheless I was from freedom. The beardless old man with the 
black and very lively eyebrows was already asking me for military and political news. Astonishing! 
Even though it was late February, they knew nothing about the Yalta Conference, nor the 
encirclement of East Prussia, nor anything at all about our own attack below Warsaw in mid- 
January, nor even about the woeful December retreat of the Allies. According to regulations, those 
under inter- rogation were not supposed to know anything about the outside world. And here indeed 
they didn't! 

I was prepared to spend half the night telling them all about it — with pride, as though all the victories 
and advances were the work of my own hands. But at this point the duty jailer brought in my cot, and 
I had to set it up without making any noise. I was helped by a young fellow my own age, also a 
military man. His tunic and aviator's cap hung on his cot. He had asked me, even before the old man 
spoke, not for news of the war but for tobacco. But although I felt openhearted toward my new 
friends, and although not many words had been exchanged in the few minutes since I joined them, I 
sensed something alien in this front-line soldier who was my contemporary, and, as far as he was 
concerned, I clammed up immediately and forever. 

(I had not yet even heard the word "nasedka" — "stool pigeon" — nor learned that there had to be one 

such "stool pigeon" in each cell. And I had not yet had time to think things over and conclude that I 
did not like this fellow, Georgi Kramarenko. But a spiritual relay, a sensor relay, had clicked inside 
me, and it had closed him off from me for good and all. I would not bother to recall this event if it 
had been the only one of its kind. But soon, with astonishment, and alarm, I became aware of the 
work of this internal sensor relay as a constant, inborn trait. The years passed and I lay on the same 
bunks, marched in the same forma- tions, and worked in the same work brigades with hundreds of 
others. And always that secret sensor relay, for whose creation I deserved not the least bit of credit, 
worked even before I remem- bered it was there, worked at the first sight of a human face and eyes, 
at the first sound of a voice — so that I opened my heart to that person either fully or just the width of 
a crack, or else shut myself off from him completely. This was so consistently un- failing that all the 
efforts of the State Security officers to employ stool pigeons began to seem to me as insignificant as 
being pestered by gnats: after all, a person who has undertaken to be a traitor always betrays the fact 
in his face and in his voice, and even though some were more skilled in pretense, there was always 
something fishy about them. On the other hand, the sensor relay helped me distinguish those to 



whom I could from the very begin- ning of our acquaintance completely disclose my most precious 
depths and secrets — secrets for which heads roll. Thus' it was that I got through eight years of 
imprisonment, three years of exile, and another six years of underground authorship, which were in 
no wise less dangerous. During all those seventeen years I recklessly revealed myself to dozens of 
people — and didn't make a misstep even once. (I have never read about this trait anywhere, and I 
mention it here for those interested in psy- chology. It seems to me that such spiritual sensors exist in 
many of us, but because we live in too technological and rational an age, we neglect this miracle and 
don't allow it to develop.) 

We set up the cot, and I was then ready to talk — in a whisper, of course, and lying down, so as not to 
be sent from this cozy nest into a punishment cell. But our third cellmate, a middle- aged man whose 
cropped head already showed the white bristles of imminent grayness, peered at me discontentedly 
and said with characteristic northern severity: "Tomorrow! Night is for sleep- ing." 

That was the most intelligent thing to do. At any minute, one of us could have been pulled out for 
interrogation and held until 6 A.M., when the interrogator would go home to sleep but we were 
forbidden to. 

One night of undisturbed sleep was more important than all the fates on earth! 

One more thing held me back, which I didn't quite catch right away but had felt nonetheless from the 
first words of my story, although I could not at this early date find a name for it: As each of us had 
been arrested, everything in our world had switched places, a 180-degree shift in all our concepts had 
oc- curred, and the good news I had begun to recount with such enthusiasm might not be good news 
for us at all. 

My cellmates turned on their sides, covered their eyes with their handkerchiefs to keep out the light 
from the 200-watt bulb, wound towels around their upper arms, which were chilled from lying on top 
of the blankets, hid their lower arms furtively beneath them, and went to sleep. 

And I lay there, filled to the brim with the joy of being among them. One hour ago I could not have 
counted on being with anyone. I could have come to my end with a bullet in the back of my head — 
which was what the interrogator kept promising me — without having seen anyone at all. 
Interrogation still hung over me, but how far it had retreated! Tomorrow I would be telling them my 
story (though not talking about my case, of course) and they would be telling me their stories too. 
How interesting tomorrow would be, one of the best days of my life! (Thus, very early and very 
clearly, I had this consciousness that prison was not an abyss for me, but the most important turning 
point in my life.) 

Every detail of the cell interested me. Sleep fled, and when the peephole was not in use I studied it 
all furtively. Up there at the top of one wall was a small indentation the length of three bricks, 
covered by a dark-blue paper blind. They had al- ready told me it was a window. Yes, there was a 
window in the cell. And the blind served as an air-raid blackout. Tomorrow there would be weak 
daylight, and in the middle of the day they would turn off the glaring light bulb. How much that 
meant — to have daylight in daytime! 

There was also a table in the cell. On it, in the most con- spicuous spot, were a teapot, a chess set, 
and a small pile of books. (I was not yet aware why they were so conspicuously positioned. It turned 
out to be another example of the Lubyanka system at work. During his once-a-minute peephole 
inspection, the jailer was supposed to make sure that the gifts of the prison administration were not 
being misused: that the teapot was not being used to break down the wall; that no one was 
swallowing the chessmen and thereby possibly cashing in his chips and ceasing to be a citizen of the 
U.S.S.R.; and that no one was starting a fire with the books in the hope of burning down the whole 
prison. And a prisoner's eyeglasses were considered so potentially dangerous that they were not 



allowed to remain on the table during the night; the prison administration took them away until 
morning.) 

What a cozy life! Chess, books, cots with springs, decent mattresses, clean linen. I could not 
remember having slept like this during the whole war. There was a worn parquet floor. One could 
take nearly four strides from window to door in the aisle between the cots. No, indeed! This central 
political prison was a real resort. 

And no shells were falling. I remembered their sounds: the high-pitched sobbing way up overhead, 
then the rising whistle, and the crash as they burst. And how tenderly the mortar shells whistled. And 
how everything trembled from the four blasts of what we called "Dr. Goebbels' mortar-rockets." And 
I remem- bered the wet snow and mud near Wormditt, where I had been arrested, which our men 
were still wading through to keep the Germans from breaking out of our encirclement. 

All right then, the hell with you; if you don't want me to fight, I won't. 

Among our many lost values there is one more: the high worth of those people who spoke and wrote 
Russian before us. It is odd that they are almost undescribed in our prerevolutionary litera- ture. Only 
very rarely do we feel their breath — from Marina Tsvetayeva, or from "Mother Mariya" (in her 
Recollections ofBlok). They saw too much to settle on any one thing. They reached toward the 
sublime too fervently to stand firmly on the earth. Before societies fall, just such a stratum of wise, 
thinking people emerges, people who are that and nothing more. And how they were laughed at! 
How they were mocked! As though they stuck in the craw of people whose deeds and actions were 
single- minded and narrow-minded. And the only nickname they were christened with was "rot." 
Because these people were a flower that bloomed too soon and breathed too delicate a fragrance. 
And so they were mowed down. 

These people were particularly helpless in their personal lives: they could neither bend with the 
wind, nor pretend, nor get by; every word declared an opinion, a passion, a protest. And it was just 
such people the mowing machine cut down, just such people the chaff-cutter shredded. 

[I am almost fearful of saying it, but it seems as though on the eve of the 1970's these people are 
emerging once again. That is surprising. It was almost too much to hope for.] 

They had passed through these very same cells. But the cell walls — for the wallpaper had long since 
been stripped off, and they had been plastered, whitewashed, and painted more than once — gave off 
nothing of the past. (On the contrary, the walls now tried to listen to us with hidden microphones.) 
Nowhere is anything written down or reported of the former inhabitants of these cells, of the 
conversations held in them, of the thoughts with which earlier inmates went forth to be shot or to 
imprison- ment on the Solovetsky Islands. And now such a volume, which would be worth forty 
freight car loads of our literature, will in all probability never be written. 

Those still alive recount to us all sorts of trivial details: that there used to be wooden trestle beds here 
and that the mattresses were stuffed with straw. That, way back in 1920, before they put muzzles 
over the windows, the panes were whitewashed up to the top. By 1923 "muzzles" had been installed 
(although we unanimously ascribed them to Beria). They said that back in the twenties, prison 
authorities had been very lenient toward pris- oners communicating with each other by "knocking" 
on the walls: this was a carry-over from the stupid tradition in the Tsarist prisons that if the prisoners 
were deprived of knocking, they would have no way to occupy their time. And another thing: back in 
the twenties all the jailers were Latvians, from the Latvian Red Army units and others, and the food 
was all handed out by strapping Latvian women. 

All this was trivial detail, but it was certainly food for thought. I myself had needed very badly to get 
into this main Soviet political prison, and I was grateful that I had been sent here: I thought about 



Bukharin a great deal and I wanted to picture the whole thing as it had actually been. However, I had 
the impres- sion that we were by now merely the remnants, and that in this respect we might just as 
well have been in any provincial "internal" prison. 

[One attached to a State Security headquarters.] 

Still, there was a good deal of status in being here. 

And there was no reason to be bored with my companions in my new cell. They were people to listen 
to and people with whom to compare notes. 

The old fellow with the lively eyebrows — and at sixty-three he in no way bore himself like an old 

man — was Anatoly Ilyich Fastenko. He was a big asset to our Lubyanka cell — both as a keeper of 
the old Russian prison traditions and as a living history of Russian revolutions. Thanks to all that he 
remembered, he somehow managed to put in perspective everything that had taken place in the past 
and everything that was taking place in the present. Such people are valuable not only in a cell. We 
badly need them in our society as a whole. 

Right there in our cell we read Fastenko's name in a book about the 1905 Revolution. He had been a 
Social Democrat for such a long, long time that in the end, it seemed, he had ceased to be one. 

He had been sentenced to his first prison term in 1904 while still a young man, but he had been freed 
outright under the "manifesto" proclaimed on October 17, 1905. 

[Who among us has not learned by heart from our school history courses, as well as from the Short 
Course in the history of the Soviet Communist Party, that this "provocative and foul manifesto" was 
a mockery of freedom, that the Tsar had proclaimed: "Freedom for the dead, and prison for the 
living"? But the epigram was bogus. The manifesto declared that all political parties were to be 
tolerated and that a State Duma was to be convened, and it provided for an amnesty which was 
honest and extremely extensive. (The fact that it had been issued under duress was something else 
again.) Indeed, under its terms none other than all political prisoners without exception were to be 
released without reference to the term and type of punishment they had been sentenced to. Only 
criminals remained imprisoned. The Stalin amnesty of July 7, 1945 — true, it was not issued under 
duress — was exactly the opposite. All the political prisoners remained imprisoned.] 

His story about that amnesty was interesting. In those years, of course, there were no muzzles on the 
prison windows, and from the cells of the Belaya Tserkov Prison in which Fastenko was being held 
the prisoners could easily observe the prison courtyard and the street, and all arrivals and departures, 
and they could shout back and forth as they pleased to ordinary citizens outside. During the day of 
October 17, these outsiders, having learned of the amnesty by telegraph, announced the news to the 
prisoners. In their happiness the political prisoners went wild with joy. They smashed windowpanes, 
broke down doors, and demanded that the prison warden release them immediately. And were any of 
them kicked right in the snout with jackboots? Or put in punishment cells? Or was anyone deprived 
of library and commissary privileges? Of course not! In his distress, the warden ran from cell to cell 
and implored them: "Gentlemen! I beg of you, please be reasonable! I don't have the authority to 
release you on the basis of a telegraphed report. I must have direct orders from my superiors in Kiev. 
Please, I beg of you. You will have to spend the night here." And in actual fact they were most 
barbarously kept there for one more day. 

[After Stalin's amnesty, as I will recount later, those amnestied were held in prison for another two or 
three months and were forced to slog away just as before. And no one considered this illegal.] 

On getting back their freedom, Fastenko and his comrades immediately rushed to join the revolution. 
In 1906 he was sentenced to eight years at hard labor, which meant four years in irons and four in 



exile. He served the first four years in the Sevastopol Central Prison, where, incidentally, during his 
stay, a mass escape was organized from outside by a coalition of revolutionary parties: the SR's, the 
Anarchists, and the Social Democrats. A bomb blew a hole in the prison wall big enough for a horse 
and rider to go through, and two dozen prisoners — not everyone who wanted to escape, but those 
who had been chosen ahead of time by their parties and, right inside the prison, had been equipped 
with pistols by the jailers — fled through the hole and escaped. All but one: Anatoly Fastenko was 
selected by the Russian Social Democratic Party not to escape but to cause a disturbance in order to 
distract the attention of the guards. 

On the other hand, when he reached exile in the Yenisei area, he did not stay there long. Comparing 
his stories (and later those of others who had survived) with the well-known fact that under the Tsar 
our revolutionaries escaped from exile by the hundreds and hundreds, and more and more of them 
went abroad, one comes to the conclusion that the only prisoners who did not escape from Tsarist 
exile were the lazy ones — because it was so easy. Fastenko "escaped," which is to say, he simply 
left his place of exile without a passport. He went to Vladivostok, ex- pecting to get aboard a steamer 
through an acquaintance there. Somehow it did not work out. So then, still without a passport, he 
calmly crossed the whole of Mother Russia on a train and went to the Ukraine, where he had been a 
member of the Bolshevik underground and where he had first been arrested. There he was given a 
false passport, and he left to cross the Austrian border. That particular step was so routine, and 
Fastenko felt himself so safe from pursuit, that he was guilty of an astonishing piece of carelessness. 
Having arrived at the border, and having turned in his passport to the official there, he suddenly 
discovered he could not remember his new name. What was he to do? There were forty passengers 
altogether and the official had already begun to call off their names. Fastenko thought up a solution. 
He pretended to be asleep. He listened as the passports were handed back to their owners, and he 
noted that the name Makarov was called several times without anyone responding. But even at this 
point he was not absolutely certain it was his name. Finally, the dragon of the imperial regime bent 
down to the underground revolutionary and politely tapped him on the shoulder: "Mr. Makarov! Mr. 
Makarov! Please, here is your passport!" 

Fastenko headed for Paris. There he got to know Lenin and Lunacharsky and carried out some 
administrative duties at the Party school at Longjumeau. At the same time he studied French, looked 
around him, and decided that he wanted to travel farther and see the world. Before the war he went 
to Canada, where he worked for a while, and he spent some time in the United States as well. He was 
astonished by the free and easy, yet solidly established life in these countries, and he concluded that 
they would never have a proletarian revolution and even that they hardly needed one. 

Then, in Russia, the long-awaited revolution came, sooner than expected, and everyone went back to 
Russia, and then there was one more Revolution. Fastenko no longer felt his former passion for these 
revolutions. But he returned, compelled by the same need that urges birds to their annual migrations. 

[Soon after Fastenko returned to the Motherland, he was followed by a Canadian acquaintance, a 
former sailor on the battleship Potemkin, one of the mutineers, in fact, who had escaped to Canada 
and become a well-to-do farmer there. This former Potemkin sailor sold everything he owned, his 
farm and cattle, and returned to his native region with his money and his new tractor to help build 
sacred socialism. He enlisted in one of the first agricultural communes and donated his tractor to it. 
The tractor was driven any which way by whoever happened along and was quickly ruined. And the 
former Potemkin sailor saw things turning out very differently from the way he had pictured them for 
twenty years. Those in charge were incompetents, issuing orders that any sensible farmer could see 
were wild nonsense. In addition, he became skinnier and skinnier, and his clothes wore out, and 
nothing was left of the Canadian dollars he had exchanged for paper rubles. He begged to be allowed 
to leave with his family, and he crossed the border as poor as when he fled from the Potemkin. He 
crossed the ocean, just as he had done then, working his way as a sailor, because he had no money 
for passages, and back in Canada he began life all over again as a hired hand on a farm.] 



There was much about Fastenko I could not yet understand. In my eyes, perhaps the main thing 
about him, and the most surprising, was that he had known Lenin personally. Yet he was quite cool 
in recalling this. (Such was my attitude at the time that when someone in the cell called Fastenko by 
his patronymic alone, without using his given name — in other words simply "Ilyich," asking: "Ilyich, 
is it your turn to take out the latrine bucket?" — I was utterly outraged and offended because it 
seemed sacrilege to me not only to use Lenin's patronymic in the same sentence as "latrine bucket," 
but even to call anyone on earth "Ilyich" except that one man, Lenin. ) For this reason, no doubt, 
there was much that Fastenko would have liked to explain to me that he still could not bring himself 
to. 

Nonetheless, he did say to me, in the clearest Russian: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 
image!" But I failed to understand him! 

Observing my enthusiasm, he more than once said to me insistently: "You're a mathematician; it's a 
mistake for you to forget that maxim of Descartes: 'Question everything!' Ques- tion everything!" 
What did this mean — "everything"? Certainly not everything! It seemed to me that I had questioned 
enough things as it was, and that was enough of that! 

Or he said: "Hardly any of the old hard-labor political pris- oners of Tsarist times are left. I am one 
of the last. All the hard- labor politicals have been destroyed, and they even dissolved our society in 
the thirties." "Why?" I asked. "So we would not get together and discuss things." And although these 
simple words, spoken in a calm tone, should have been shouted to the heavens, should have shattered 
windowpanes, I understood them only as indicating one more of Stalin's evil deeds. It was a trouble- 
some fact, but without roots. 

One thing is absolutely definite: not everything that enters our ears penetrates our consciousness. 
Anything too far out of tune with our attitude is lost, either in the ears themselves or somewhere 
beyond, but it is lost. And even though I clearly re- member Fastenko's many stories, I recall his 
opinions but vaguely. He gave me the names of various books which he strongly advised me to read 
whenever I got back to freedom. In view of his age and his health, he evidently did not count on 
getting out of prison alive, and he got some satisfaction from hoping that I would someday 
understand his ideas. I couldn't write down the list of books he suggested, and even as it was there 
was a great deal of prison life for me to remember, but I at least remembered those titles which were 
closest to my taste then: Untimely Thoughts by Gorky (whom I regarded very highly at that time, 
since he had, after all, outdone all the other classical Russian writers in being proletarian) and 
Plekhanov's A Year in the Motherland. 

Today, when I read what Plekhanov wrote on October 28, 1917, 1 can clearly reconstruct what 
Fastenko himself thought: 

... I am disappointed by the events of the last days not because I do not desire the triumph of 
the working class in Russia but precisely because I pray for it with all the strength of my soul. . 
. . [We must] remember Engels' remark that there could be no greater historical tragedy for 
the working class than to seize political power when it is not ready for it. [Such a seizure of 
power] would compel it to retreat far back from the positions which were won in February and 
March of the present year. 

[G. V. Plekhanov, "An Open Letter to the Workers of Petrograd," in the newspaper Yedinstvo, 
October 28, 1917.] 

When Fastenko returned to Russia, pressure was put on him, out of respect for his old underground 
exploits, to accept an important position. But he did not want to; instead, he accepted a modest post 

on the newspaper Pravda and then a still more modest one, and eventually he moved over to the 
Moscow City Planning office, where he worked in an inconspicuous job. 



I was surprised. Why had he chosen such a cul-de-sac? He ex- plained in terms I found 
incomprehensible. "You can't teach an old dog to live on a chain." 

Realizing that there was nothing he could accomplish, Fastenko quite simply wanted, in a very 
human way, to stay alive. He had already gotten used to living on a very small pension — not one of 
the "personal" pensions especially assigned by the government, because to have accepted that sort of 
thing would have called attention to his close ties to many who had been shot. And he might have 
managed to survive in this way until 1953. But, to his misfortune, they arrested another tenant in his 

apartment, a debauched, perpetually drunken writer, L. S v, who had bragged somewhere while 

he was drunk about owning a pistol. Owning a pistol meant an obligatory conviction for terrorism, 
and Fastenko, with his ancient Social Democratic past, was naturally the very picture of a terrorist. 
Therefore, the interroga- tor immediately proceeded to nail him for terrorism and, simul- taneously, 
of course, for service in the French and Canadian intelligence services and thus for service in the 
Tsarist Okhrana as well. 

[This was one of Stalin's pet themes — to ascribe to every arrested Bol- shevik, and in general to 

every arrested revolutionary, service in the Tsarist Okhrana. Was this merely his intolerant 
suspiciousness? Or was it intuition? Or, perhaps, analogy? . . .] 

And in 1945, to earn his fat pay, the fat interrogator was quite seriously leafing through the archives 

of the Tsarist provincial gendarmerie administrations, and composing entirely serious interrogation 
depositions about conspiratorial nicknames, passwords, and secret rendezvous and meetings in 1903. 

On the tenth day, which was as soon as was permitted, his old wife (they had no children) delivered 
to Anatoly Ilyich such parcels as she could manage to put together: a piece of black bread weighing 
about ten and a half ounces (after all, it had been bought in the open market, where bread cost 50 
rubles a pound), and a dozen peeled boiled potatoes which had been pierced by an awl when the 
parcel was being inspected. And the sight of those wretched — and truly sacred — parcels tore at one's 
heartstrings. 

That was what this human being had earned for sixty-three years of honesty and doubts. 

The four cots in our cell left an aisle in the middle, where the table stood. But several days after my 
arrival, they put a fifth per- son in with us and inserted a cot crosswise. 

They brought in the newcomer an hour before rising time — that brief, sweetly cerebral last hour, and 
three of us did not lift our heads. Only Kramarenko jumped up, to sponge some to- bacco, and 
maybe, with it, some material for the interrogator. They began to converse in a whisper, and we tried 
not to listen. But it was quite impossible not to overhear the newcomer's whisper. It was so loud, so 
disquieting, so tense, and so close to a sob, that we realized it was no ordinary grief that had entered 
our cell. The newcomer was asking whether many were shot. Nonetheless, without turning my head, 
I called them down, asking them to talk more quietly. 

When, on the signal to rise, we all instantly jumped up (lying abed earned you the punishment cell), 

we saw a general, no less! True, he wasn't wearing any insignia of rank, not even tabs — nor could 
one see where his insignia had been torn off or unscrewed, but his expensive tunic, his soft overcoat, 
indeed his entire figure and face, told us that he was unquestionably a general, in fact a typical 
general, and most certainly a full general, and not one of your run-of-the-mill major generals. He 
was short, stocky, very broad of shoulder and body, and notably fat in the face, but this fat, which 
had been acquired by eating well, endowed him, not with an appearance of good-natured 
accessibility, but with an air of weighty importance, of affiliation with the highest ranks. The 
crowning part of his face was, to be sure, not the upper portion, but the lower, which resembled a 
bulldog's jaw. It was there that his energy was concentrated, along with his will and 
authoritativeness, which were what had enabled him to attain such rank by early middle age. 



We introduced ourselves, and it turned out that L. V. Z v was even younger than he appeared. 

He would be thirty-six that year — "If they don't shoot me." Even more surprisingly, it de- veloped 
that he was not a general at all, not even a colonel, and not even a military man — but an engineer! 

An engineer? I had grown up among engineers, and I could remember the engineers of the twenties 
very well indeed: their open, shining intellects, their free and gentle humor, their agility and breadth 
of thought, the ease with which they shifted from one engineering field to another, and, for that 
matter, from technology to social concerns and art. Then, too, they personified good manners and 
delicacy of taste; well-bred speech that flowed evenly and was free of uncultured words; one of them 
might play a musical instrument, another dabble in painting; and their faces always bore a spiritual 
imprint. 

From the beginning of the thirties I had lost contact with that milieu. Then came the war. And here 
before me stood — an engineer, one of those who had replaced those destroyed. 

No one could deny him one point of superiority. He was much stronger, more visceral, than those 
others had been. His shoulders and hands retained their strength even though they had not needed it 
for a long time. Freed from the restraints of courtesy, he stared sternly and spoke impersonally, as if 
he didn't even consider the possibility of a dissenting view. He had grown up differently from those 
others too, and he worked differently. 

His father had plowed the earth in the most literal sense. Lenya Z v had been one of those 

disheveled, unenlightened peasant boys whose wasted talents so distressed Belinsky and Tolstoi. He 
was certainly no Lomonosov, and he could never have gotten to the Academy on his own, but he was 
talented. If there had been no revolution, he would have plowed the land, and he would have become 
well-to-do because he was energetic and active, and he might have raised himself into the merchant 
class. 

It being the Soviet period, however, he entered the Komsomol, and his work in the Komsomol, 
overshadowing his other talents, lifted him out of anonymity, out of his lowly state, out of the 
countryside, and shot him like a rocket through the Workers' School right into the Industrial 
Academy. He arrived there in 1929 — at the very moment when those other engineers were being 
driven in whole herds into Gulag. It was urgently necessary for those in power to produce their own 
engineers — poUtically- conscious, loyal, one-hundred percenters, who were to become bigwigs of 
production, Soviet businessmen, in fact, rather than people who did things themselves. That was the 
moment when the famous commanding heights overlooking the as-yet-uncreated industries were 
empty. And it was the fate of Z v's class in the Industrial Academy to occupy them. 

Z v's life became a chain of triumphs, a garland wind- ing right up to the peak. Those were the 

exhausting years, from 1929 to 1933, when the civil war was being waged, not as in 1918 to 1920 
with tachankas — machine guns mounted on horse- drawn carts — but with police dogs, when the long 
lines of those dying of famine trudged toward the railroad stations in the hope of getting to the cities, 
which was where the breadgrains were evidently ripening, but were refused tickets and were unable 
to leave — and lay dying beneath the station fences in a submissive human heap of homespun coats 

and bark shoes. In those same years Z v not only did not know that bread was rationed to city 

dwellers but, at a time when a manual laborer was receiving 60 rubles a month in wages, he enjoyed 

a student's scholarship of 900 rubles a month. Z v's heart did not ache for the countryside whose 

dust he had shaken from his feet. His new life was already soaring elsewhere among the victors and 
the leaders. 

He never had time to be an ordinary, run-of-the-mill foreman. He was immediately assigned to a 
position in which he had dozens of engineers and thousands of workers under him. He was the chief 
engineer of the big construction projects outside Mos- cow. From the very beginning of the war he, 
of course, had an exemption from military service. He was evacuated to Alma-Ata, together with the 



department he worked for, and in this area he bossed even bigger construction projects on the Hi 
River. But in this case his workers were prisoners. The sight of those little gray people bothered him 
very little at the time, nor did it in- spire him to any reappraisals nor compel him to take a closer 
look. In that gleaming orbit in which he circled, the only im- portant thing was to achieve the 

projected totals, fulfillment of the plan. And it was quite enough for Z v merely to punish a 

particular construction unit, a particular camp, and a par- ticular work superintendent — after that, it 
was up to them to manage to fulfill their norm with their own resources. How many hours they had 
to work to do it or what ration they had to get along on were details that didn't concern him. 

The war years deep in the rear were the best years in Z v's life. Such is the eternal and universal 

aspect of war: the more grief it accumulates at one of its poles, the more joy it generates at the other. 

Z V had not only a bulldog's jaw but also a swift, enterprising, businesslike grasp. With the 

greatest skill he immediately switched to the economy's new wartime rhythm. Everything for 
victory. Give and take, and the war will write it all off. He made just one small concession to the 
war. He got along without suits and neckties, and, camouflaging himself in khaki color, had chrome- 
leather boots made to order and donned a general's tunic — the very one in which he appeared before 
us. That was fashionable and not uncommon at the time. It provoked neither anger in the war- 
wounded nor reproachful glances from women. 

Women usually looked at him with another sort of glance. They came to him to get well fed, to get 

warmed up, to have some fun. He had wild money passing through his hands. His billfold bulged 
like a little barrel with expense money, and to him ten-ruble notes were like kopecks, and thousands 

like single rubles. Z v didn't hoard them, regret spending them, or keep count of them. He 

counted only the women who passed through his hands, and particularly those he had "uncorked." 
This count was his sport. In the cell he assured us that his arrest had broken off the count at 290 plus, 
and he regretted that he had not reached 300. Since it was wartime and the women were alone and 
lonely. And since, in addition to his power and money, he had the virility of a Rasputin, one can 
probably believe him. And he was quite prepared to describe one episode after another. It was just 
that our ears were not prepared to listen to him. Even though no danger threatened him during those 
last years, he had frantically grabbed these women, messed them up, and then thrown them away, 
like a greedy diner eating boiled crayfish — grabbing one, devouring it, sucking it, then grabbing the 
next. 

He was so accustomed to the malleability of material, to his own vigorous boarlike drive across the 
land! (Whenever he was especially agitated, he would dash about the cell like a powerful boar who 
might just knock down an oak tree in his path.) He was so accustomed to an environment in which 
all the leaders were his own kind of people, in which one could always make a deal, work things out, 
cover them up! He forgot that the more success one gains, the more envy one arouses. As he found 
out during his interrogation, a dossier had been accumulating against him since way back in 1936, on 
the basis of an anecdote he had carelessly told at a drunken party. More denunciations had fol- 
lowed, and more testimony from agents (after all, one has to take women to restaurants, where all 
types of people see you!). Another report pointed out that he had been in no hurry to leave Moscow 
in 1941, that he had been waiting for the Germans. He had in actual fact stayed on longer than he 

should have, ap- parently because of some woman. Z v took great care to keep his business deals 

clean. But he quite forgot the existence of Article 58. Nonetheless, the avalanche might not have 
over- whelmed him had he not grown overconfident and refused to supply building materials for a 
certain prosecutor's dacha. That was what caused his dormant case to awaken and tremble and start 
roUing. (And this was one more instance of the fact that cases begin with the material self-interest of 
the blueboys.) 

The scope of Z v's concepts of the world can be judged by the fact that he believed there was a 

Canadian language. During the course of two months in the cell, he did not read a single book, not 
even a whole page, and if he did read a para- graph, it was only to be distracted from his gloomy 
thoughts about his interrogation. It was clear from his conversation that he had read even less in 



freedom. He knew of Pushkin — as the hero of bawdy stories. And of Tolstoi he knew only, in all 
probability, that he was — a Deputy of the Supreme Soviet! 

On the other hand, was he a one hundred percent loyal Com- munist? Was he that same socially- 
conscious proletarian who had been brought up to replace Palchinsky and von Meek and their ilk? 
This was what was really surprising — he was most cer- tainly not! We once discussed the whole 
course of the war with him, and I said that from the very first moment I had never had any doubts 
about our victory over the Germans. He looked at me sharply; he did not believe me. "Come on, 
what are you saying?" And then he took his head in his hands. "Oh, Sasha, Sasha, and I was 
convinced the Germans would win! That's what did me in!" There you are! He was one of the 
"organizers of victory," but each day he believed in the Germans' success and awaited their 
inevitable arrival. Not because he loved them, but simply because he had so sober an insight into our 
economy (which I, of course, knew nothing about and therefore believed in). 

All of us in the cell were deeply depressed, but none of us was so crushed as Z v, none took his 

arrest as so profound a tragedy. He learned from us that he would get no more than a tenner, that 
during his years in camp he would, of course, be a work superintendent, and that he would not have 
to experience real suffering, as indeed he never did. But this did not comfort him in the least. He was 
too stricken by the collapse of such a glorious life. After all, it was his one and only life on earth, and 
no one else's, which had interested him all his thirty-six years. And more than once, sitting on his cot 
in front of the table, propping his pudgy head on his short, pudgy arm, he would start to sing quietly, 
in a singsong voice and with lost, befogged eyes: 

Forgotten and abandoned 
Since my young, early years, 
I was left a tiny orphan. . . . 

He could never get any further than that. At that point, he would break into explosive sobs. All that 
bursting strength which could not break through the walls that enclosed him he turned inward, 
toward self-pity. 

And toward pity for his wife. Every tenth day (since oftener was not allowed) his wife, long since 
unloved, brought him rich and bountiful food parcels — the whitest of white bread, butter, red caviar, 
veal, sturgeon. He would give each of us a sandwich and a twist of tobacco and then bend down to 
the provisions he had set before himself, delighting in odors and colors that con- trasted vividly with 
the bluish potatoes of the old underground revolutionary Fastenko. Then his tears would start to pour 
again, redoubled. He recalled out loud his wife's tears, whole years of tears: some due to love notes 
she had found in his trousers, some to some woman's underpants in his overcoat pocket, stuffed there 
hurriedly in his automobile and forgotten. And when he was thus torn by burning self-pity, his armor 
of evil energy fell away, and before us was a ruined and clearly a good person. I was astonished that 
he could sob so. The Estonian Arnold Susi, our cellmate with the gray bristles in his hair, explained 
it to me: "Cruelty is invariably accompanied by sentimentality. It is the law of complementaries. For 
example, in the case of the Germans, the combination is a national trait." 

Fastenko, on the other hand, was the most cheerful person in the cell, even though, in view of his 
age, he was the only one who could not count on surviving and returning to freedom. Flinging an 
arm around my shoulders, he would say: 

To stand up for the truth is nothing! 
For truth you have to sit in jail! 

Or else he taught me to sing this song from Tsarist hard-labor days: 



And if we have to perish 



In mines and prisons wet, 

Our cause will ever find renown 

In future generations yet. 

And I believe this! May these pages help his faith come true! 

The sixteen-hour days in our cell were short on outward events, but they were so interesting that I, 
for example, now find a mere sixteen minutes' wait for a trolley bus much more boring. There were 
no events worthy of attention, and yet by evening I would sigh because once more there had not been 
enough time, once more the day had flown. The events were trivial, but for the first time in my life I 
learned to look at them through a magnifying glass. 

The most difficult hours in the day were the first two. At the rattle of the key in the lock (for at the 
Lubyanka there were no "swill troughs," [Special large openings in the cell doors of many Russian 
prisons [known to the prisoners as "kormushki," meaning "swill troughs" or "fodder bins"]. Their 
Uds dropped down to make tiny tables. Conversations with the jailers were carried on through these 
openings, food was handed through, and prison papers were shoved through for the prisoners to 
sign.] and it was necessary to unlock the door even to shout: "Time to get up!"), we jumped up 
without lingering, made our beds, and sat down on them feeling empty and helpless, with the electric 
light still burning. This enforced wakefulness from 6 A.M. on — at a time when the brain was still 
lazy from sleep, the whole world seemed repulsive and all of life wrecked, and there was not a gulp 
of air in the cell — was particularly ludicrous for those who had been under interrogation all night and 
had only just been able to get to sleep. But don't try to steal extra sleep! If you should try to doze off, 
leaning slightly against the wall, or propped over the table as if studying the chessboard, or relaxing 
over a book lying conspicuously open on your knees, the key would sound a warning knock on the 
door, or, worse yet, the door with that rattling lock would suddenly open silently, since the Lubyanka 
jailers were specially trained to do just that, and like a spirit passing through a wall, the swift and 
silent shadow of the junior sergeant would take three steps into the cell, hook onto you as you slept, 
and maybe take you off to the punishment cell; or maybe they would take book privileges away from 
the whole cell or deprive everyone of their daily walk — a cruel, unjust punishment for all, and there 
were other punish- ments, too, in the black lines of the prison regulations. Read them! They hang in 
every cell. If, incidentally, you needed glasses to read, then you wouldn't be reading books or the 
sacred regulations either during those two starving hours. Eye- glasses were taken away every night, 
and it was evidently still "dangerous" for you to have them during those two hours when no one 
brought anything to the cell, and no one came to it. No one asked about anything, and no one was 
summoned — the inter- rogators were still sleeping sweetly. And the prison administra- tion was just 
opening its eyes, coming to. Only the vertukhai, the turnkeys, were active and energetic, opening the 
peephole cover once a minute for inspection. 

[During my time this word "vertukhai" had already come into wide currency for the jailers. It was 
said to have originated with Ukrainian guards who were always ordering: "Stoi, ta ne vertukhais!" 
And yet it is also worth recalling the English word for jailer, "turnkey," is "verti klyuch" in Russian. 
Perhaps a "vertukhai" here in Russia is also "one who turns the key."] 

But one procedure was carried out during those two hours: the morning trip to the toilet. When the 
guard roused us, he made an important announcement. He designated the person from our cell who 
was to be entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out the latrine bucket. (In more isolated, 
ordinary prisons the prisoners had enough freedom of speech and self-government to decide this 
question themselves. But in the Chief Political Prison such an important event could not be left to 
chance.) So then you formed up in single file, hands behind your backs, and, at the head of the line, 
the responsible latrine-bucket-bearer carried chest high the two-gallon tin pail with a lid on it. When 
you reached your goal, you were locked in again, each having first been handed a small piece of 
paper, the size of two railway tickets. (At the Lubyanka this was not particularly interesting. The 
paper was blank and white. But there were enticing prisons where they gave you pages of books — 



and what reading that was! You could try to guess whence it came, read it over on both sides, digest 
the contents, evaluate the style — and when words had been cut in half that was particularly essential! 
You could trade with your comrades. In some places they handed out pages from the once 
progressive Granat Encyclopedia, and sometimes, it's awful to say it, from the classics, and I don't 
mean belles-lettres either. Visits to the toilet thus became a means of acquiring knowledge. ) 

But there's not that much to laugh at. We are dealing with that crude necessity which it is considered 
unsuitable to refer to in literature (although there, too, it has been said, with immortal adroitness: 
"Blessed is he who early in the morning . . ."). This allegedly natural start of the prison day set a trap 
for the prisoner that would grip him all day, a trap for his spirit — which was what hurt. Given the 
lack of physical activity in prison, and the meager food, and the muscular relaxation of sleep, a 
person was just not able to square accounts with nature immediately after rising. Then they quickly 
returned you to the cell and locked you up — until 6 P.M., or, in some prisons, until morning. At that 
point, you would start to get worried and worked up by the ap- proach of the daytime interrogation 
period and the events of the day itself, and you would be loading yourself up with your bread ration 
and water and gruel, but no one was going to let you visit that glorious accommodation again, easy 
access to which /ree people are incapable of appreciating. This debilitating, banal need could make 
itself felt day after day shortly after the morning toilet trip and would then torment you the whole 
day long, op- press you, rob you of the inclination to talk, read, think, and even of any desire to eat 
the meager food. 

People in the cells sometimes discussed how the Lubyanka system and schedule, and those in other 
prisons as well, had come into being, whether through calculated brutality or as a matter of chance. 
My opinion is that both factors are involved. The rising time is, obviously, a matter of malicious 
intent, but much of the rest evolved automatically at first (which is true of many of the brutalities of 
life generally) and was then discovered by the powers that be to be useful and was therefore made 
permanent. The shifts change at 8 A.M. and 8 P.M., and it was more con- venient for everyone to 
take the prisoners to the toilet at the end of a shift. (Letting them out singly in the middle of the day 
was extra trouble and meant extra precautions, and no one got paid for that.) The same was true of 
the business with eyeglasses: Why should one worry about that at 6 A.M.? They could be returned to 
the owners just before the end of the shift instead. 

So now we heard them being brought around — doors were being opened. We could guess whether 
someone wore them in the cell next door. (And didn't your codefendant wear spectacles? But we 
didn't feel up to knocking out a message on the wall. This was punished very severely.) A moment 
later they would bring the eyeglasses to our cell. Fastenko used them only for reading. But Susi 
needed them all the time. He could stop squint- ing once he'd put them on. Thanks to his horn- 
rimmed glasses and straight lines above the eyes, his face became severe, per- spicacious, exactly the 
face of an educated man of our century as we might picture it to ourselves. Back before the 
Revolution he had studied at the Faculty of History and Philology of the Uni- versity of Petrograd, 
and throughout his twenty years in inde- pendent Estonia he had preserved intact the purest Russian 
speech, which he spoke like a native. Later, in Tartu, he had studied law. In addition to Estonian, he 
spoke English and Ger- man, and through all these years he continued to read the London Economist 
and the German scientific "Berichte" summaries. He had studied the constitutions and the codes of 
law of various countries — and in our cell he represented Europe worthily and with restraint. He had 
been a leading lawyer in Estonia and been known as "kuldsuu" — meaning "golden-tongued." 

There was new activity in the corridor. A free-loader in a gray smock — a husky young fellow who 
had certainly not been at the front — brought a tray with our five bread rations and ten lumps of 
sugar. Our cell stoolie hovered over them, even though we would inevitably cast lots for them — 
which we did because every least detail of this was important: the heel of the loaf, for instance, and 
the number of smaller pieces needed to make the total weight come out right, and how the crust 
adheres, or doesn't, to the inside of the bread — and it was better that fate should decide. 



[Where indeed in our country did this casting of lots not happen? It was the result of our universal 
and endless hunger. In the army, all rations were divided up the same way. And the Germans, who 
could hear what was going on from their trenches, teased us about it: "Who gets it? The political 
com- missar!"] 

But the stoolie felt he just had to hold everything in his hands for at least a second so that some bread 
and sugar molecules would cling to his palms. 

That pound of unrisen wet bread, with its swamplike sogginess of texture, made half with potato 
flour, was our crutch and the main event of the day. Life had begun! The day had begun — this was 
when it began! And everyone had countless problems. Had he allocated his bread ration wisely the 
day before? Should he cut it with a thread? Or break it up greedily? Or slowly, quietly nip off pieces 
one by one? Should he wait for tea or pile into it right now? Should he leave some for dinner or 
finish it off at lunch? And how much? 

In addition to these wretched dilemmas, what wide-ranging discussions and arguments went on (for 
our tongues had been liberated and with bread we were once more men) provoked by this one-pound 
chunk in our hand, consisting more of water than of grain. (Incidentally, Fastenko explained that the 
workers of Moscow were eating the very same bread at that time.) And, gen- erally speaking, was 
there any real breadgrain in this bread at all? And what additives were in it? (There was at least one 
person in every cell who knew all about additives, for, after all, who hadn't eaten them during these 
past decades?) Discussions and remi- niscences began. About the white bread they had baked back in 
the twenties — springy round loaves, like sponge cake inside, with a buttery reddish-brown top crust 
and a bottom crust that still had a trace of ash from the coals of the hearth — that bread had vanished 
for good! Those bom in 1930 would never know what bread is. Friends, this is a forbidden subject! 
We agreed not to say one word about food. 

Once again there was movement in the corridor — tea was being brought around. A new young tough 
in a gray smock carrying pails. We put our teapot out in the corridor and he poured straight into it 
from a pail without a spout — into the teapot and onto the runner and the floor beneath it. And the 
whole corridor was polished like that of a first-class hotel. 

[Soon the biologist Timofeyev-Ressovsky, whom I have already men- tioned, would be brought here 
from Berlin. There was nothing at the Lubyanka, it appeared, which so offended him as this spilling 
on the floor. He considered it striking evidence of the lack of professional pride on the part of the 
jailers, and of all of us in our chosen work. He multiplied the 27 years of Lubyanka's existence as a 
prison by 730 times (twice for each day of the year), and then by 1 1 1 cells — and he would seethe for 
a long time because it was easier to spill boiling water on the floor 2,188,000 times and then come 
and wipe it up with a rag the same number of times than to make pails with spouts.] 

And that was all they gave us. Whatever cooked food we got would be served at 1 P.M. and at 4 
P.M., one meal almost on the heels of the other. You could then spend the next twenty -one hours 
remembering it. (And that wasn't prison brutality either: it was simply a matter of the kitchen staff 
having to do its work as quickly as possible and leave.) 

At nine o'clock the morning check-up took place. For a long while beforehand, we could hear 
especially loud turns of the key and particularly sharp knocks on the doors. Then one of the duty 
lieutenants for the whole floor would march forward and enter, almost as erect as if he were standing 
at attention. He would take two steps forward and look sternly at us. We would be on our feet. (We 
didn't even dare remember that political prisoners were once not required to rise.) It was no work at 
all to count us — he could do it in a glance — but this was a moment for testing our rights. For we did 
have some rights, after all, although we did not really know them, and it was his job to hide them 
from us. The whole strength of the Lubyanka training showed itself in a totally machinelike manner: 
no expression on the face, no inflection, not a superfluous word. 



And which of our rights did we know about? A request to have our shoes repaired. An appointment 
with the doctor. Although if they actually took you to the doctor, you would not be happy about the 
consequences. There the machinelike Lubyanka manner would be particularly striking. He didn't ask: 
"What's your trouble?" That would take too many words, and one couldn't pronounce the phrase 
without any inflection. He would ask curtly: "Troubles?" And if you began to talk at too great length 
about your ailment, he would cut you off. It was clear anyway. A tooth- ache? Extract it. You could 
have arsenic. A filling? We don't fill teeth here. (That would have required additional appoint- ments 
and created a somewhat humane atmosphere. ) 

The prison doctor was the interrogator's and executioner's right-hand man. The beaten prisoner 
would come to on the floor only to hear the doctor's voice: "You can continue, the pulse is normal." 
After a prisoner's five days and nights in a punishment cell the doctor inspects the frozen, naked 
body and says: "You can continue." If a prisoner is beaten to death, he signs the death certificate: 
"Cirrhosis of the liver" or "Coronary occlusion." He gets an urgent call to a dying prisoner in a cell 
and he takes his time. And whoever behaves differently is not kept on in the prison. 

[Dr. F. P. Gaaz would have earned nothing extra in our country.] 

But our stoolie was better informed about his rights. (Accord- ing to him he had already been under 
interrogation eleven months. And he was taken to interrogation only during the day. ) He spoke up 
and asked for an appointment with the prison chief. What, the chief of the whole Lubyanka? Yes. 
His name was taken down. (And in the evening, after taps, when the interrogators were al- ready in 
their offices, he was summoned. And he returned with some makhorka. ) This was very crude, of 
course, but so far they had not been able to think up anything better. It would have been a big 
expense to convert entirely to microphones in the walls and impossible to listen in on all 111 cells 
for whole days at a time. Who would do it? Stool pigeons were cheaper and would continue to be 
used for a long time to come. But Kramarenko had a hard time with us. Sometimes he eavesdropped 
so hard that the sweat poured from him, and we could see from his face that he didn't understand 
what we were saying. 

There was one additional right — the privilege of writing appli- cations and petitions (which replaced 
freedom of the press, of assembly, and of the ballot, all of which we had lost when we left freedom). 
Twice a month the morning duty officer asked: "Who wants to write a petition?" And they listed 
everyone who wanted to. In the middle of the day they would lead you to an individual box and lock 
you up in it. In there, you could write whomever you pleased: the Father of the Peoples, the Central 
Committee of the Party, the Supreme Soviet, Minister Beria, Minister Abakumov, the General 
Prosecutor, the Chief Military Prosecutor, the Prison Administration, the Investigation Depart- ment. 
You could complain about your arrest, your interrogator, even the chief of the prison! In each and 
every case your petition would have no effect whatever. It would not be stapled into any file, and the 
most senior official to read it would be your own interrogator. However, you were in no position to 
prove this. In fact, it was rather more likely that he would not read it, because no one would be able 
to read it. On a piece of paper measuring seven by ten centimeters — in other words, three by four 
inches — a little larger than the paper given you each morning at the toilet, with a pen broken in the 
middle or bent into a hook, and an inkwell with pieces of rag in it and ink diluted with water, you 
would just be able to scratch out "Petit ..." Then the letters would all run together on the cheap 
paper, "ion" couldn't be worked into the line, and everything would come through on the other side 
of the sheet. 

You might have still other rights, but the duty officer would keep quiet about them. And you 
wouldn't be losing much, truth to tell, even if you didn't find out about them. 

The check-up came and went. And the day began. The inter- rogators were already arriving there 
somewhere. The turnkey would summon one of us with a great air of secrecy; he called out the first 
letter of the name only. Like this: "Whose name begins with 'S'?" and: "Whose name begins with 



'F?" Or perhaps: "Whose begins with 'M'? — with 'Am'?" And you yourself had to be quick-witted 
enough to recognize that it was you he wanted and offer yourself as a victim. This system was 
introduced to prevent mistakes on the jailer's part. He might have called out a name in the wrong 
cell, and that way we might have found out who else was in prison. And yet, though cut off from the 
entire prison, we were not deprived of news from other cells. Because they tried to crowd in as many 
prisoners as possible, they shuffled them about from cell to cell, and every newcomer brought all his 
accumulated experience to his new cell. Thus it was that we, imprisoned on the fourth floor, knew all 
about the cellar cells, about the boxes on the first floor, about the darkness on the second floor, 
where the women were all kept, about the split-level arrange- ment of the fifth, and about the biggest 
cell of all on the fifth floor — No. 111. Before my time, the children's writer Bondarin had been a 
prisoner in our cell, and before that he had been on the women's floor with some Polish 
correspondent or other, who had previously been a cellmate of Field Marshal von Paulus — and that 
was how we learned all the details about von Paulus. 

The period for being summoned to interrogation passed. And for those left in the cell a long, pleasant 
day stretched ahead, lightened by opportunities and not overly darkened by duties. Duties could 

include sterilizing the cots with a blow torch twice a month. (At the Lubyanka, matches were 
categorically for- bidden to prisoners; to get a light for a cigarette we had to signal patiently with a 
finger when the peephole was opened, thus asking the jailer for a light. But blow torches were 
entrusted to us with- out hesitation.) And once a week we might be called into the corridor to have 
our faces clipped with a dull clipper — allegedly a right but strongly resembling a duty. And one 

might be as- signed the duty of cleaning the parquet floor in the cell. (Z v always avoided this 

work because it was beneath his dignity, like any other work, in fact.) We got out of breath quickly 
because we were underfed; otherwise we would have considered this duty a privilege. It was such 
gay, lively work — pushing the brush forward with one's bare foot, torso pulled back, and then turn 
about; forward-back, forward-back, and forget all your grief! Shiny as a mirror! A Potemkin prison! 

Besides, we didn't have to go on being overcrowded in our old Cell 67 any longer. In the middle of 
March they added a sixth prisoner to our number, and since here in the Lubyanka they did not fill all 
the cells with board bunks, nor make you sleep on the floor, they transferred all of us into a beauty of 
a cell — No. 53. (I would advise anyone who has not yet been in it to pay it a visit.) This was not a 
cell. It was a palace chamber set aside as a sleeping apartment for distinguished travelers! The 
Rossiya In- surance Company, without a thought for economy, had raised the height of the ceiUng in 
this wing to sixteen and a half feet. 

[This company acquired a piece of Moscow earth that was well ac- quainted with blood. The 
innocent Vereshchagin was torn to pieces in 1812 on Furkasovsky, near the Rostopchin house. And 
the murderess and serf-owner Saltychikha lived — and killed serfs — on the other side of the Bolshaya 
Lub- yanka. (Po Moskve [In Moscow], edited by N. A. Geinike and others, Moscow, Sabashnikov 
Publishers, 1917, p. 231.)] 

(Oh, what four-story bunks the chief of counterintelligence at the front would have slapped in here. 
And he could have gotten one hundred people in, results guaranteed.) And the window! It was such 
an enormous window that standing on its sill the jailer could hardly reach the "fortochka," that 
hinged ventilation pane. One section of this window alone would have made a fine whole window in 
an ordinary house. Only the riveted steel sheets of the muzzle closing off four-fifths of it reminded us 
that we were not in a palace after all. 

Nonetheless, on clear days, above this muzzle, from the wall of the Lubyanka courtyard, from some 
windowpane or other on the sixth or seventh floor, we now and then got a pale reflection of a ray of 
sunlight. To us it was a real ray of sunlight — a living, dear being! We followed with affection its 
climb up the wall. And every step it made was filled with meaning, presaging the time of our daily 
outing in the fresh air, counting off several half- hours before lunch. Then, just before lunch, it 
disappeared. 



And our rights included being let out for a walk, reading books, telling one another about the past, 
hstening and learning, arguing and being educated! And we would be rewarded by a lunch that 
included two courses! Too good to be true! 

The walk was bad on the first three floors of the Lubyanka. The prisoners were let out into a damp, 
low-lying little courtyard — the bottom of a narrow well between the prison buildings. But the 
prisoners on the fourth and fifth floors, on the other hand, were taken to an eagle's perch — on the 
roof of the fifth floor. It had a concrete floor; there were concrete walls three times the height of a 
man; we were accompanied by an unarmed jailer; on the watch tower was a sentinel with an 
automatic weapon. But the air was real and the sky was real! "Hands behind your back! Line up in 
pairs! No talking! No stopping!" Such were the com- mands, but they forgot to forbid us to throw 
back our heads. And, of course, we did just that. Here one could see not a re- fleeted, not a 
secondhand Sun, but the real one! The real, eternally living Sun itself! Or its golden diffusion 
through the spring clouds. 

Spring promises everyone happiness — and tenfold to the pris- oner. Oh, April sky! It didn't matter 

that I was in prison. Evi- dently, they were not going to shoot me. And in the end I would become 
wiser here. I would come to understand many things here. Heaven! I would correct my mistakes yet, 
O Heaven, not for them but for you. Heaven! I had come to understand those mistakes here, and I 
would correct them! 

As if from a pit, from the far-off lower reaches, from Dzer- zhinsky Square, the hoarse earthly 
singing of the automobile horns rose to us in a constant refrain. To those who were dashing along to 
the tune of those honkings, they seemed the trumpets of creation, but from here their insignificance 
was very clear. 

The walk in the fresh air lasted only twenty minutes, but how much there was about it to concern 
oneself with; how much one had to accomplish while it lasted. 

In the first place, it was very interesting to try to figure out the layout of the entire prison while they 
were taking you there and back, and to calculate where those tiny hanging courtyards were, so that at 
some later date, out in freedom, one could walk along the square and spot their location. We made 
many turns on the way there, and I invented the following system: Starting from the cell itself, I 
would count every turn to the right as plus one, and every turn to the left as minus one. And, no 
matter how quickly they made us turn, the idea was not to try to picture it hastily to oneself, but to 
count up the total. If, in addition, through some staircase window, you could catch a glimpse of the 
backs of the Lubyanka water nymphs, half-rec lining against the pillared turret which hovered over 
the square itself, and you could remember the exact point in your count when this happened, then 
back in the cell you could orient yourself and figure out what your own window looked out on. 

And during that outdoor walk you concentrated on breathing as much fresh air as possible. 

There, too, alone beneath that bright heaven, you had to im- agine your bright future life, sinless and 
without error. 

There, too, was the best place of ail to talk about the most dangerous subjects. It didn't matter that 
conversation during the walk was forbidden. One simply had to know how to manage it. The 
compensation was that in all likelihood you could not be over- heard either by a stoolie or by a 
microphone. 

During these walks I tried to get into a pair with Susi. We talked together in the cell, but we liked to 
try talking about the main things here. We hadn't come together quickly. It took some time. But he 
had already managed to tell me a great deal. I acquired a new capability from him: to accept 
patiently and pur- posefuUy things that had never had any place in my own plans and had, it seemed, 



no connection at all with the clearly outlined direction of my life. From childhood on, I had 
somehow known that my objective was the history of the Russian Revolution and that nothing else 
concerned me. To understand the Revolution I had long since required nothing beyond Marxism. I 
cut myself off from everything else that came up and turned my back on it. And now fate brought me 
together with Susi. He breathed a com- pletely different sort of air. And he would tell me 
passionately about his own interests, and these were Estonia and democracy. And although I had 
never expected to become interested in Estonia, much less bourgeois democracy, I nevertheless kept 
listening and listening to his loving stories of twenty free years in that modest, work-loving, small 
nation of big men whose ways were slow and set. I listened to the principles of the Estonian con- 
stitution, which had been borrowed from the best of European experience, and to how their hundred- 
member, one-house parUa- ment had worked. And, though the why of it wasn't clear, I began to like 
it all and store it all away in my experience. 

[Susi remembered me later as a strange mixture of Marxist and democrat. Yes, things were wildly 
mixed up inside me at that time.] 

I listened willingly to their fatal history: the tiny Estonian anvil had, from way, way back, been 
caught between two hammers, the Teutons and the Slavs. Blows showered on it from East and West 
in turn; there was no end to it, and there still isn't. And there was the well- known (totally unknown) 
story of how we Russians wanted to take them over in one fell swoop in 1918, but they refused to 
yield. And how, later on, Yudenich spoke contemptuously of their Finnish heritage, and we 
ourselves christened them "White Guard Bandits." Then the Estonian gymnasium students enrolled 
as volunteers. We struck at Estonia again in 1940, and again in 1941, and again in 1944. Some of 
their sons were conscripted by the Russian Army, and others by the German Army, and still others 
ran off into the woods. The elderly Tallinn intellectuals discussed how they might break out of that 
iron ring, break away somehow, and live for themselves and by themselves. Their Premier might, 
possibly, have been Tief, and their Minister of Education, say, Susi. But neither Churchill nor 
Roosevelt cared about them in the least; but "Uncle Joe" did. And during the very first nights after 
the Soviet armies entered Tallinn, all these dreamers were seized in their Tallinn apartments. Fifteen 
of them were imprisoned in various cells of the Moscow Lubyanka, one in each, and were charged 
under Article 58-2 with the criminal desire for national self-determination. 

Each time we returned to the cell from our walk was like being arrested again. Even in our very 
special cell the air seemed stifling after the outdoors. And it would have been good to have a snack 
afterward too. But it was best not to think about it — not at all. It was bad if one of the prisoners who 
received food parcels tactlessly spread out his treasures at the wrong time and began to eat. All right, 
we'll develop self-control! It was bad, too, to be betrayed by the author of the book you were 
reading — if he began to drool over food in the greatest detail. Get away from me, Gogol! Get away 
from me, Chekhov, too! They both had too much food in their books. "He didn't really feel like 
eating, but nevertheless he ate a helping of veal and drank some beer." The son-of-a-bitch! It was 
better to read spiritual things! Dostoyevsky was the right kind of author for prisoners to read! Yet 
even in Dostoyevsky you could find that passage "The chil- dren went hungry. For several days they 
had seen nothing but bread and sausage." 

The Lubyanka library was the prison's principal ornament. True, the librarian was repulsive — a 
blond spinster with a horsy build, who did everything possible to make herself ugly. Her face was so 
whitened that it looked like a doll's immobile mask; her lips were purple; and her plucked eyebrows 
were black. (You might say that was her own business, but we would have enjoyed it more if she had 
been a charmer. However, perhaps the chief of the Lubyanka had already taken that into 
consideration?) But here was a wonder: once every ten days, when she came to take away our books, 
she listened to our requests for new ones! She heard us out in that same machinelike, inhuman 
Lubyanka manner, and it was impossible to judge whether she had heard the authors' names or the 
titles, whether, indeed, she had heard our words at all. She would leave, and we would experience 
several hours of nervous but happy expectation. During those hours all the books we had returned 



were leafed through and checked. They were examined in case we had left pinpricks or dots 
underneath certain letters — for there was such a method of clandestine intramural communication — 
or we had underlined passages we liked with a fingernail. We were worried even though we were 
totally innocent. They might come to us and say that they had discovered pinpricks. They were 
always right, of course; and, as always, no proof was required. And on that basis we could be 
deprived of books for three months — if, indeed, they didn't put the whole cell on a punishment-cell 
regime. It would be very sad to have to do without books during the best and brightest of our prison 
months, before we were tossed into the pit of camp. Indeed, we were not only afraid; we actually 
trembled, just as we had in youth after sending a love letter, while we waited for an answer. Will it 
come or not? And what will it say? 

Then at last the books arrived and determined the pattern of the next ten days. They would decide 
whether we would chiefly concentrate on reading or, if they had brought us trash, be spend- ing more 
time in conversation. They brought exactly as many books as there were people in the cell, this being 
the sort of calculation appropriate to a bread cutter and not a librarian: one book for one person, six 
books for six persons. The cells with the largest number of prisoners were the best off. 

Sometimes the spinster would fill our orders miraculously. But even when she was careless about 
them, things could turn out interestingly. Because the library of the Big Lubyanka was unique. In all 
probability it had been assembled out of confiscated private libraries. The bibliophiles who had 
collected those books had al- ready rendered up their souls to God. But the main thing was that while 
State Security had been busy censoring and emasculating all the libraries of the nation for decades, it 
forgot to dig in its own bosom. Here, in its very den, one could read Zamyatin, Pil- nyak, 
Panteleimon Romanov, and any volume at all of the com- plete works of Merezhkovsky. (Some 
people wisecracked that they allowed us to read forbidden books because they already re- garded us 
as dead. But I myself think that the Lubyanka librarians hadn't the faintest concept of what they were 
giving us — they were simply lazy and ignorant.) 

We used to read intensively during the hours before lunch. But it sometimes happened that a single 
phrase would get you going and drive you to pace from window to door, from door to window. And 
you would want to show somebody what you had read and explain what it implied, and then an 
argument would get started. It was a time for sharp arguments, as well! 

I often argued with Yuri Y. 

On that March morning when they led the five of us into palatial Cell 53, they had just added a sixth 
prisoner to our group. 

He entered, it seemed, like a spirit, and his shoes made no noise against the floor. He entered and, 
not sure that he could stay on his feet, leaned against the door frame. The bulb had been turned off in 
the cell and the morning light was dim. How- ever, the newcomer did not have his eyes wide open. 
He squinted, and he kept silent. 

The cloth of his military field jacket and trousers did not identify him as coming from the Soviet, or 

the German, or the Polish, or the English Army. The structure of his face was elong- ated. There was 
very little Russian in it. And he was painfully thin. And not only very thin but very tall. 

We spoke to him in Russian — and he kept silent. Susi addressed him in German — he still kept silent. 

Fastenko tried French and English — with the same result. Only gradually did a smile appear on his 
emaciated, yellow, half -dead face — the only such smile I had ever seen in my life. 

"Pee-eeple," he uttered weakly, as if he were coming out of a faint, or as if he had been waiting all 

night long to be executed. And he reached out his weak, emaciated hand. It held a small bundle tied 
up in a rag. Our stoolie understood instantly what was in it, threw himself on it, grabbed it, and 



opened it up on the table. There was half a pound of light tobacco. He had instantly man- aged to roll 
himself a cigarette four times the size of an ordi- nary one. 

Thus, after three weeks' confinement in a cellar box, Yuri Nikolayevich Y. made his appearance in 
our cell. 

From the time of the 1929 incidents on the Chinese Eastern Railroad, the song had been sung 
throughout the land: 

Its steel breast brushing aside our enemies. 
The 27th stands on guard! 

The chief of artillery of this 27th Infantry Division, formed back in the Civil War, was the Tsarist 
officer Nikolai Y. (I re- membered the name because it was the name of one of the authors of our 
artillery textbook.) In a heated freight car that had been converted into living quarters, and always 
accompanied by his wife, this artillery officer had crossed and recrossed the Volga and the Urals, 
sometimes moving east and sometimes west. It was in this heated freight car that his son, Yuri, bom 
in 1917, and twin brother, therefore, of the Revolution itself, spent his first years. 

That was a long time ago. Since then his father had settled in Leningrad, in the Academy, and lived 
well and frequented high circles, and the son graduated from the officer candidate school. During the 
Finnish War, Yuri wanted desperately to fight for the Motherland, and friends of his father got him 
an appointment as an aide on an army staff. Yuri did not have to crawl on his stomach to destroy the 
Finns' concrete artillery emplacements, nor get trapped and encircled on a scouting mission, nor 
freeze in the snow under sniper bullets — but his service was nevertheless rewarded, not with some 
ordinary decoration, but with the Order of the Red Banner, which fitted neatly on his field shirt. Thus 
he completed the Finnish War in full consciousness of its justice and his own part in it. 

But he didn't have things so easy in the next war. The battery he commanded was surrounded near 
Luga. They scattered and were caught and driven off into prisoner-of-war camps. Yuri found himself 
in a concentration camp for officers near Vilnius. 

In every life there is one particular event that is decisive for the entire person — for his fate, his 
convictions, his passions. Two years in that camp shook Yuri up once and for all. It is impossible to 
catch with words or to circumvent with syllogisms what that camp was. That was a camp to die in — 
and whoever did not die was compelled to reach certain conclusions. 

Among those who could survive were the Ordners — the in- ternal camp police or Polizei — chosen 
from among the prisoners. Of course, Yuri did not become an Ordner. The cooks managed to survive 
too. The translators could survive also — they needed them. But though Yuri had a superb command 
of conversational German, he concealed this fact. He realized that a translator would have to betray 
his fellow prisoners. One could also post- pone dying by digging graves, but others stronger and 
more dexterous got those jobs. Yuri announced that he was an artist. And, actually, as part of his 
varied education at home, he had been given lessons in painting. Yuri didn't paint badly in oils, and 
only his desire to follow in his father's footsteps — for he had been proud of his father — had kept him 
from entering art school. 

Together with an elderly artist (I regret that I don't remember his name) he occupied a separate room 

in the barracks. And there Yuri painted for nothing schmaltzy pictures such as Nero's Feast and the 
Chorus of Elves and the like for the German officers on the commandant's staff. In return, he was 
given food. The slops for which the POW officers stood in line with their mess tins from 6 A.M. on, 
while the Ordners beat them with sticks and the cooks with ladles, were not enough to sustain life. At 
evening, Yuri could see from the windows of their room the one and only picture for which his 
artistic talent had been given him: the evening mist hovering above a swampy meadow en- circled by 



barbed wire; a multitude of bonfires; and, around the bonfires, beings who had once been Russian 
officers but had now become beastlike creatures who gnawed the bones of dead horses, who baked 
patties from potato rinds, who smoked manure and were all swarming with lice. Not all those two- 
legged creatures had died as yet. Not all of them had yet lost the capacity for in- telUgible speech, 
and one could see in the crimson reflections of the bonfires how a belated understanding was 
dawning on those faces which were descending to the Neanderthal. 

Wormwood on the tongue! That life which Yuri had preserved was no longer precious to him for its 
own sake. He was not one of those who easily agree to forget. No, if he was going to survive, he was 
obliged to draw certain conclusions. 

It was already clear to them that the Germans were not the heart of the matter, or at least not the 
Germans alone; that among the POW's of many nationalities only the Soviets lived like this and died 
like this. None were worse off than the Soviets. Even the Poles, even the Yugoslavs, existed in far 
more tolerable condi- tions; and as for the English and the Norwegians, they were in- undated by the 
International Red Cross with parcels from home. They didn't even bother to line up for the German 
rations. Wher- ever there were Allied POW camps next door, their prisoners, out of kindness, threw 
our men handouts over the fence, and our prisoners jumped on these gifts like a pack of dogs on a 
bone. 

The Russians were carrying the whole war on their shoulders — and this was the Russian lot. Why? 

Gradually, explanations came in from here and there: it turned out that the U.S.S.R. did not 
recognize as binding Russia's signa- ture to the Hague Convention on war prisoners. That meant that 
the U.S.S.R. accepted no obligations at all in the treatment of war prisoners and took no steps for the 
protection of its own soldiers who had been captured. 

[We did not recognize that 1907 Convention until 1955. Incidentally, in his diary for 1915, 

Melgunov reports rumors that Russia would not let aid go through for its prisoners in Germany and 
that their living conditions were worse than those of all other Allied prisoners — simply in order to 
prevent rumors about the good life of war prisoners inducing our soldiers to surrender willingly. 
There was some sort of continuity of ideas here. (Melgunov, Vos- pominaniya i Dnevniki, Vol. I, pp. 
199 and 203.)] 

The U.S.S.R. did not recognize the In- ternational Red Cross. The U.S.S.R. did not recognize its own 
soldiers of the day before: it did not intend to give them any help as POW's. 

And the heart of Yuri, enthusiastic twin of the October Revo- lution, grew cold. In their barracks 
room, he and the elderly artist clashed and argued. It was difficult for Yuri to accept. Yuri re- sisted. 
But the old man kept peeling off layer after layer. What was it all about? Stalin? But wasn't it too 
much to ascribe every- thing to Stalin, to those stubby hands? He who draws a con- elusion only 
halfway fails to draw it at all. What about the rest of them? The ones right next to Stalin and below 
him, and every- where around the country — all those whom the Motherland had authorized to speak 
for it? 

What is the right course of action if our mother has sold us to the gypsies? No, even worse, thrown 
us to the dogs? Does she really remain our mother? If a wife has become a whore, are we really still 
bound to her in fidelity? A Motherland that betrays its soldiers — is that really a Motherland? 

And everything turned topsy-turvy for Yuri! He used to take pride in his father — now he cursed 
him! For the first time he began to consider that his father had, in essence, betrayed his oath to that 
army in which he had been brought up — had betrayed it in order to help establish this system which 
now betrayed its own soldiers. Why, then, was Yuri bound by his own oath to that traitorous system? 



When, in the spring of 1943, recruiters from the first Byelorus- sian "legions" put in an appearance, 
some POW's signed up with them to escape starvation. Yuri went with them out of conviction, with a 
clear mind. But he didn't stay in the legion for long. As the saying goes: "Once they've skinned you, 
there's no point in grieving over the wool." By this time Yuri had given up hiding his excellent 
knowledge of German, and soon a certain Chief, a German from near Kassel, who had been assigned 
to create an espionage school with an accelerated wartime output, took Yuri as his right-hand man. 
And that was how Yuri began the down- ward slide he had not foreseen. That was how things got 
turned around. Yuri passionately desired to free his Motherland, and what did they do but shove him 
into training spies? The Germans had their own plans. Just where could one draw the line? Which 
step was the fatal one? Yuri became a lieutenant in the German Army. He traveled through 
Germany, in German uniform, spent some time in Berlin, visited Russian emigres, and read authors 
Uke Bunin, Nabokov, Aldanov, Amfiteatrov, whose works were forbidden at home. Yuri had 
anticipated that in all their writing» in Bunin's, for example, the blood flowing from Russia's living 
wounds would pour from every page. What was wrong with them? To what did they devote their 
unutterably precious free- dom? To the female body, to ecstasy, sunsets, the beauty of noble brows, 
to anecdotes going back to dusty years. They wrote as if there had been no revolution in Russia, or as 
if it were too com- plex for them to explain. They left it to young Russian people to find for 
themselves what was highest in life. And Yuri dashed back and forth, in a hurry to see, in a hurry to 
know, and mean- while, in accordance with ancient Russian tradition, he kept drowning his 
confusion more and more often and more and more deeply in vodka. 

What was their spy school really? It was, of course, not a real one. All they could be taught in six 
months was to master the parachute, the use of explosives, and the use of portable radios. The 
Germans put no special trust in them. In sending them across the lines they were simply whistling in 
the dark. And for those dying, hopelessly abandoned Russian POW's, those schools, in Yuri's 
opinion, were a good way out. The men ate their fill, got new warm clothing, and, in addition, had 
their pockets stuffed with Soviet money. The students (and their teachers) acted as if all this 
nonsense were genuine — as if they would actually carry out spying missions in the Soviet rear, blow 
up the designated objectives, get back in touch with the Germans via radio, and return to the German 
lines. But in reality in their eyes this school was simply a means of sidestepping death and captivity. 
They wanted to live, but not at the price of shooting their own compatriots at the front. 

[Of course, our Soviet interrogators did not accept this line of reasoning. What right did they have to 
want to live — at a time when privileged families in the Soviet rear lived well without collaborating? 
No one ever thought of considering that these boys had refused to take up German arms against their 
own people. For playing spies, they were nailed with the very worst and most serious charges of 
all — Article 58-6, plus sabotage with intent. This meant: to be held until dead.] 

The Germans sent them across the front lines, and from then on their free choice depended on their 
own morality and conscience. They all threw away their TNT and radio apparatus immediately. The 
only point on which they differed was whether to surrender to the authorities immedi- ately, like the 
snub-nosed "shhpy" I had encountered at army counterintelligence headquarters, or whether to get 
drunk first and have some fun squandering all that free money. None of them ever recrossed the front 
lines to the Germans. 

Suddenly, as the new year of 1945 approached, one smart fellow did return and reported he had 
carried out his assignment. (Just go and check on it!) He created a sensation. The Chief hadn't the 
slightest doubt that SMERSH had sent him back and decided to shoot him. (The fate of a 
conscientious spy!) But Yuri insisted that he be given a decoration instead and held up as an example 
to the others taking the course. The returned "spy" invited Yuri to drink a quart of vodka with him 
and, crimson from drink, leaned across the table and disclosed: "Yuri Nikola- yevich! The Soviet 
Command promises you forgiveness if you will come over to us immediately." 

Yuri trembled. And that heart which had already grown hard, which had renounced everything, was 



flooded with warmth. The Motherland? Accursed, unjust, but nonetheless still precious! 
Forgiveness? And he could go back to his own family? And walk along Kamennoostrovsky in 
Leningrad? All right, so what? We are Russian! If you will forgive us, we will return, and we will 
behave ourselves, oh, how well! That year and a half since he had left the POW camp had not 
brought Yuri happiness. He did not repent, but he could see no future either. And when, while 
drinking, he encountered other such unrepentant Russians, he learned that they realized clearly that 
they had nothing to stand on. It wasn't real life. The Germans were twisting them to suit themselves. 
But now, when the Germans were obviously losing the war, Yuri had been offered an out. His Chief, 
who liked him, confided that he had a second estate in Spain which they could head for together if 
the German Reich went up in smoke. But there across the table sat his drunken compatriot, coaxing 
him at the risk of his own life: "Yuri Nikolayevich! The Soviet Command values your experience 
and knowledge. They want you to tell them about the organization of the German in- telligence 
service." 

For two weeks Yuri was torn by hesitation. But during the Soviet offensive beyond the Vistula, after 
he had led his school well out of the way, he ordered them to turn in to a quiet Polish farm, lined 
them all up, and declared: "I am going over to the Soviet side! There is a free choice for everyone!" 
And these sad-sack spies, with the milk hardly dry on their lips, who just one hour before had 
pretended loyalty to the German Reich, now cried out with enthusiasm: "Hurrah! Us too!" (They 
were shout- ing "hurrah" for their future lives at hard labor.) 

Then the entire spy school hid until the arrival of the Soviet tanks; and then came SMERSH. Yuri 
saw his boys no more. They took him off by himself and gave him ten days to describe the whole 
history of the school, the programs, the sabotage assignments. He really thought that they valued his 
"experience and knowledge." They were already talking about his going home to his family. 

Only when he arrived at the Lubyanka did he realize that even in Salamanca he would have been 
closer to his native Neva. He could now await being shot, or, in any case, a sentence of cer- tainly 
not less than twenty years. 

So immutably does a human being surrender to the mist of the Motherland! Just as a tooth will not 
stop aching until the nerve is killed, so is it with us; we shall probably not stop responding to the call 
of the Motherland until we swallow arsenic. The lotus- eaters in the Odyssey knew of a certain lotus 
for that purpose. . . . 

In all, Yuri spent three weeks in our cell. I argued with him during all those weeks. I said that our 

Revolution was magnificent and just; that only its 1929 distortion was terrible. He looked at me 
regretfully, compressing his nervous lips: before trying our hands at revolution, we should have 
exterminated the bedbugs in this country! (Sometimes, oddly, he and Fastenko arrived at the same 
conclusions, approaching them from such different be- ginnings.) I said there had been a long period 
in which the people in charge of everything important in our country had been people of 
unimpeachably lofty intentions, and totally dedicated. He said that from the very beginning they 
were all cut from the same cloth as Stalin. (We agreed that Stalin was a gangster.) I praised Gorky to 
the skies. What a smart man he had been! How correct his point of view! What a great artist he was! 
And Yuri parried. He was an insignificant, terribly boring personality! He invented himself; he 
invented his heroes; and his books were fabrications from beginning to end. Lev Tolstoi — he was the 
king of our literature. 

As a result of these daily arguments, vehement because of our youth, he and I were never able to 
become really close or to discern and accept in each other more than we rejected. 

They took him out of our cell; and since then, no matter how often I have inquired, I have found no 
one who was imprisoned with him in the Butyrki, and no one who encountered him in a transit 
prison. Even the rank-and-file Vlasov men have all dis- appeared without a trace, under the earth. 



most likely, and even now some of them do not have the documents they need in order to leave the 
northern wastes. But even among them, the fate of Yuri Y. was not a rank-and-file fate. 

At long last our Lubyanka lunch arrived. Long before it got to us we could hear the cheery clatter in 
the corridor, and then, as in a restaurant, they brought in a tray with two aluminum plates — not 
bowls — for each prisoner. One plate held a ladleful of soup and the other a ladleful of the thinnest 
kind of thin gruel, with no fat in it. 

In his first excitement, a prisoner couldn't get anything down his throat. There were those who didn't 
touch their bread for several days, who didn't know where to put it. But gradually one's appetite 
returned; and then a chronically famished state ensued that became almost uncontrollable. Then, if 
one managed to get it under control, one's stomach shrank and adapted itself to inadequate food, at 
which point the meager Lubyanka fare became just right. One needed to have self-control to achieve 
this, and also needed to stop looking around to see who might be eating something extra. All those 
extremely dangerous prison conversations about food had to be outlawed, and one had to try to lift 
oneself, as far as possible, into higher spheres. At the Lubyanka this was made easier by our being 
permitted two hours of rest after lunch — something else that was astonishingly resort- like. We lay 
down, our backs to the peephole, set up open books for appearance' sake, and dozed off. Sleep was 
forbidden, strictly speaking, and the guards could see that the pages of the books hadn't been turned 
for a long time. But ordinarily they did not knock during this period. (The explanation for this 
humanitarian- ism was that whoever wasn't resting during these hours was under- going 
interrogation. Thus, for those who were stubborn, who had not signed the depositions, the contrast 
was unmistakable: they returned to the cell at the very end of the rest period.) 

And sleep was the very best thing for hunger and anguish. One's organism cooled off, and the brain 
stopped recapitulating one's mistakes over and over again. 

Then they brought in dinner — another ladle of gruel. Life was setting all its gifts before you. After 

that, you were not going to get anything to eat in the five or six hours before bedtime, but that was 
not so terrible; it was easy to get used to not eating in the evenings. That has long been known in 
military medicine. And in reserve regiments they don't have anything to eat in the evening. 

Then came the time for the evening visit to the toilet, for which, in all likelihood, you had waited, all 
atremble, all day. How relieved, how eased, the whole world suddenly became! How the great 
questions all simplified themselves at the same instant — did you feel it? 

Oh, the weightless Lubyanka evenings! (Only weightless, in- cidentally, if you were not awaiting a 
night interrogation.) A weightless body, just sufficiently satisfied by soup so that the soul did not feel 
oppressed by it. What light, free thoughts! It was as if we had been lifted up to the heights of Sinai, 
and there the truth manifested itself to us from out the fire. Was it not of this that Pushkin dreamed: 

I want to live to think and suffer! 

And there we suffered, and we thought, and there was nothing else in our lives. How easy it turned 
out to be to attain that ideal. 

Some evenings I would get involved in arguments, withdraw- ing from a chess game with Susi or 
from a book. Again I would have the sharpest quarrels with Yuri, because the questions were all 
explosive ones — for example, the question of the outcome of the war. The jailer, without any word 
or change of expression, would come in and pull down the dark-blue blackout blind on the window. 
And then, out there on the other side of the blind, evening Moscow would begin to send up salutes. 
And just as we could not see the salutes lighting up the heavens, we were unable to see the map of 
Europe. Yet we tried to picture it in all its details and to guess which cities had been taken. Yuri was 
espe- cially tormented by those salutes. Appealing to fate to correct his own mistakes, he assured us 



that the war was by no means fin- ished and that the Red Army and the Anglo-American forces 
would now go for each other's throats: that the real war would really begin now. The others in the 
cell took a greedy interest in this prediction. How would such a conflict end? Yuri claimed it would 
end with the easy destruction of the Red Army. (Would this result in our liberation or our 
execution?) I objected to this, and we got into heated arguments. It was his contention that our army 
was worn down, bled white, poorly supplied, and, most importantly, that it would not fight with its 
usual determination against the Allies. I, however, insisted, on the basis of the units I had been 
familiar with, that the army was not so much worn down as experienced, that it had now become 
both strong and mean, and that in such an event it would crush the Allies even more thoroughly than 
it had the Germans. "Never," cried Yuri in a half- whisper. "And what about the Ardennes?" I 
answered in a half- whisper. Fastenko interrupted us, ridiculing us both, informing us that we did not 
understand the West and that no one, now or ever, could compel the Allied armies to fight against us. 

However, in the evening we didn't want to argue so much as to hear something interesting that might 
bring us closer together, and to talk in a spirit of fellowship. 

One favorite subject of conversation was prison traditions, how it used to he in prison. We had 
Fastenko and were therefore able to hear these stories at first hand. What dismayed us most of all 
was to learn that it had previously been an honor to be a political prisoner, and that it was not only 
their relatives who stuck by them and refused to renounce them, but that girls who had never even 
met them came to visit them, pretending for that purpose to be their fiancees. And what about the 
once universal tradition of gifts for the prisoners on holidays? No one in Russia ever broke the 
Lenten fast without first taking gifts for unknown prisoners to the common prison kitchen. They 
brought in Christ- mas hams, tarts, and kulichi — the special Russian Easter cakes. One poor old lady 
even used to bring a dozen colored Easter eggs; it made her feel better. And where had all that 
Russian generosity gone? It had been replaced by political consciousness. That was how cruelly and 
implacably they had terrified our people and cured them of taking thought for and caring for those 
who were suffering. Today it would seem silly to do such a thing. If it was proposed today that some 
institution organize a preholiday collection of gifts for prisoners in the local prison, it would be 
virtually considered an anti-Soviet revolt! That's how far we have gone along the road to being 
brutalized! 

And what about those holiday gifts? Were they only a matter of tasty food? More importantly, those 
gifts gave the prisoners the warm feeling that people in freedom were thinking about them and were 
concerned for them. 

Fastenko told us that even in the Soviet period a Political Red Cross had existed. We found this 
difficult to imagine. It wasn't that we thought he was telling us an untruth. Somehow we just couldn't 
picture such a thing. He told us that Y. P. Peshkova, taking advantage of her personal immunity, had 
traveled abroad, collected money there (you'd not collect much here), and then seen to it that 
foodstuffs were bought in Russia for political pris- oners who had no relatives. For all political 
prisoners? And he explained at this point that the KR's — the so-called "Counter- Revolutionaries" — 
engineers and priests, for example, weren't included, but only members of former political parties. 
Well, why didn't you say so right away? Yes, and then for the most part the Political Red Cross, 
except Peshkova, was itself liquidated and its staff imprisoned. 

It was also very pleasant, on those evenings when one wasn't expecting interrogation, to talk about 
getting out of prison. Yes, they said there had been astonishing instances when they did release 

someone. One day they took Z v from our cell, "with his things" — perhaps to free him? But his 

interrogation could not have been completed so swiftly. Ten days later he returned. They had 
dragged him off to Lefortovo. When he got there, he had evidently begun to sign things very quickly. 
So they brought him back to us. "Now if they should )ust release you," we would say to a fellow 
prisoner, "since your case, after all, isn't very serious, as you yourself say, then you must promise to 
go see my wife and, to show you've done it, tell her, let's say, to put two apples in my next parcel. . . 



. But there aren't any apples anywhere right now, so tell her to put in three bagels. But then there 
mightn't be any bagels in Moscow either. So all right, it will just have to be four potatoes!" (That's 
how the discussion went, and then they actually did take N. off, "with his things," and M. got four 
potatoes in his next parcel. Truly astonishing! It was more than a coincidence! So they had really let 
him go! And his case was much more serious than mine. So maybe soon . . . However, what really 
happened was that M.'s wife brought five potatoes, but one of them got crushed in her bag, and N. 
was in the hold of a ship en route to the Kolyma. ) 

And so it went. We talked about all kinds of things and recalled something amusing, and it was all 
very jolly and delightful to be among interesting people who were so different from those you used 
to spend your life with, and who came from outside your own circle of experience. Meanwhile the 
silent evening check-up had come and gone, and they had taken eyeglasses away and the light bulb 
had blinked three times. That meant that bedtime would be in five minutes. 

Quick! Quick! Grab a blanket! Just as you never knew at the front when a hail of shells would begin 
to fall all around you, here you didn't know which would be your fateful interrogation night. And we 
would lie down with one arm on top of the blanket and try to expel the whirlwind of thought from 
our heads. Go to sleep! 

And at a certain moment on an April evening, soon after we had seen Yuri off, the lock rattled. 
Hearts tightened. For whom had they come? Now the jailer would whisper: "Name with 'S'? Name 
with 'Z'?" But the guard did not whisper anything. The door closed. We raised our heads. There was 
a newcomer at the door: on the thin side, young, in a cheap blue suit and a dark-blue cap. He had 
nothing with him. He looked around in a state of confusion. 

"What's the cell number?" he asked in alarm. 

"Fifty-three." 

He shuddered a bit. 

"Are you from freedom?" we asked. 

"No!" He shook his head in a painful sort of way. 

"When were you arrested?" 

"Yesterday morning." 

We roared. He had a very gentle, innocent sort of face, and his eyebrows were nearly white. 
"What for?" 

(It was an unfair question. One could not really expect an answer. ) 
"Oh, I don't know. . . . Nothing much." 

That was how they all replied. Everyone here was imprisoned because of nothing much. And to the 
newly arrested prisoner his own case always seemed especially nothing much. 

"But anyway, what was it?" 

"Well, you see, I wrote a proclamation. To the Russian peo- pie." 
"Whaaat?" 

(None of us had ever run into that sort of "nothing much.") 

"Are they going to shoot me?" His face grew longer. He kept pulling at the visor of the cap he had 
still not taken off. 



"Well, no, probably not," we reassured him. "They don't shoot anyone nowadays. They give out 
tenners — every time the clock strikes." 

"Are you a worker? Or a white-collar employee?" asked the Social Democrat, true to his class 
principles. 

"A worker." 

Fastenko reached out a hand to him and triumphantly pro- claimed to me: "You see, Aleksandr 
Isayevich, that's the mood of the working class!" 

He turned away to go to sleep, assuming that there was no- where else to go from there and nothing 
else to listen to. 

But he was wrong. 

"What do you mean, a proclamation? Just like that? Without any reason? In whose name was it 
issued?" 

"In my own." 

"And who are you?" 

The newcomer smiled with embarrassment: "The Emperor, Mikhail." 

An electric shock ran through us all. Once again we raised ourselves on our cots and looked at him. 
No, his shy, thin face was not in the least like the face of Mikhail Romanov. And then his age too . . . 

"Tomorrow, tomorrow. Time to sleep now," said Susi sternly. 

We went to sleep, confident that the two hours before the mom- ing bread ration were not going to 
be boring. 

They brought in a cot and bedding for the Emperor, and he lay down quietly next to the latrine 
bucket. 

In 1916 a portly stranger, an elderly man with a light-brown beard, entered the home of the Moscow 
locomotive engineer Belov and said to the engineer's pious wife: "Pelageya! You have a year-old 
son. Take good care of him for the Lord. The hour will come — and I will come to you again." Then 
he left. 

Pelageya did not have the faintest idea who this man was. But he had spoken so clearly and 
authoritatively that her mother's heart accepted his word as law. And she cared for her child like the 
apple of her eye. Viktor grew up to be quiet, obedient, and pious; and he often saw visions of the 
angels and the Holy Virgin. But, as he grew up, these visions became less frequent. The elderly man 
did not come again. Viktor learned to be a chauffeur, and in 1936 he was taken into the army and 
sent off to Birobidzhan, where he was stationed in an auto transport company. He was not at all 
overly familiar or cheeky, and perhaps it was his quiet demeanor and modesty, so untypical of a 
chauffeur, which at- tracted a civilian girl employee. But the commander of his platoon was after the 
same girl and found himself out in the cold because of Viktor. At this time, Marshal Bliicher came to 
their area for maneuvers and his personal chauffeur fell seriously ill. Bliicher ordered the commander 
of the motor company to send him the best driver in the company; the company commander 
summoned the platoon commander, who immediately latched onto the idea of dumping his rival, 
Belov. (That's the way it often is in the army. The person who deserves promotion doesn't get it, and 



the person they want to get rid of does.) In addition, Belov was sober, a hard worker, and reliable — 
he wouldn't let them down. 

Blucher liked Belov. So Belov stayed with him. Soon Bliicher was summoned to Moscow on a 
plausible pretext. This was how they separated the marshal from his power base in the Far East 
before arresting him. He had brought his own chauffeur, Belov, to Moscow with him. Having lost his 
boss, Belov then landed in the Kremlin garage and began chauffeuring, sometimes for Mi- khailov 
(of the Komsomol), sometimes for Lozovsky or some- body else in the leadership, and, finally, for 
Khrushchev. He had a close view of things — and he told us a lot, too, about the feasts, the morals, 
the security precautions. As a representative of the rank-and-file Moscow proletariat, he was also 
present at the trial of Bukharin in the House of the Unions. Of all those for whom he worked, he 
spoke well only of Khrushchev. Only in Khru- shchev's home was the chauffeur seated at the family 
table instead of being put in the kitchen. Only there, in those years, did he find the simplicity of the 
workingman's life preserved. Khru- shchev, who enjoyed life hugely, also became attached to Viktor 
Alekseyevich, and in 1938, when he left for the Ukraine, he tried to get him to go along. "I would 
have stayed with Khrushchev forever," said Viktor Alekseyevich. But for some reason he felt he 
should remain in Moscow. 

For a while in 1941, before the beginning of the war, he was not employed in the government garage 
and, having no one to protect him, he was taken into military service. But because his health was 
poor, he was not sent to the front but to a labor bat- talion. First they went on foot to Inza, to dig 
trenches and build roads there. After his secure and prosperous life of the previous few years he 
found it painful to have his nose shoved in the dirt. He drank a full draft of grief and poverty there, 
and on every side he saw not only that people had not begun to live better before the war, but that 
they were deeply impoverished. Just barely surviving himself, and released from the service because 
of illness, he returned to Moscow and again managed to get him- self a job as chauffeur for 
Shcherbakov, and after that for Sedin, People's Commissar of Petroleum. 

[He used to describe how the obese Shcherbakov hated to see people around when he arrived at his 
Informburo, so they temporarily removed all those who were working in the offices he had to walk 
through. Grunting be- cause of his fat, he would lean down and pull back a comer of the carpet. And 
the whole Informburo caught it if he found any dust there.] 

But Sedin embezzled funds to the tune of 35 million and was quietly removed. And Belov was once 
again out of a job driving for the leaders. He became a chauffeur at an automobile depot, and in his 
spare time he used to moonlight with his car on the road to Krasnaya Pakhra. 

But his thoughts were already centered elsewhere. In 1943 he had been visiting his mother. She was 
doing the laundry and had gone out to the hydrant with her pails. The door opened and a portly 
stranger, an old man with a white beard, entered the house. He crossed himself at the ikon there, 
looked sternly at. Belov, and said to him: "Hail, Mikhail. God gives you his bless- ing!" Belov 
replied: "My name is Viktor." "But," the old man continued, "you are destined to become Mikhail, 
the Emperor of Holy Russia!" Just then Viktor's mother returned and half- collapsed in fright, 
spilling her pails. It was the very same old man who had come to her twenty-seven years before. He 
had turned white in the meantime, but it was he. "God bless you, Pelageya, you have preserved your 
son," said the old man. And he took the future Emperor aside, like a patriarch preparing to enthrone 
him, and announced to the astonished young man that in 1953 there would be a change in rule and 
that he would be- come Emperor of All Russia. 

[The prophetic old man made only one mistake. He confused the chauffeur with his former 
employer.] 

(That is why the number of our cell, 53, shocked him so.) To this end, the old man told him, he was 
to begin to gather his forces in 1948. The old man didn't instruct him as to how to gather his forces. 



He departed, and Viktor Alekseyevich didn't get around to asking. 

All the peace and simplicity of his life were lost to him now. Perhaps some other individual would 
have recoiled from the ambitious program, but Viktor, as it happened, had rubbed shoulders with the 
highest of the high. He had seen all those Mikhailovs, Shcherbakovs, Sedins, and he had heard a lot 
from other chauffeurs, too, and he had gotten it clear in his own mind that nothing in the least 
unusual was required — in fact, just the reverse. 

The newly anointed Tsar, quiet, conscientious, sensitive, like Fyodor Ivanovich, the last of the line of 
Ryurik, felt on his brow the heavy pressure of the crown of Monomakh. All around him were the 
people's poverty and grief, for which he had not until now borne any responsibility. Now all this lay 
upon his shoulders, and he was to blame for the fact that this misery still existed. It seemed strange 
to him to wait until 1948, and, therefore, in that very autumn of 1943, he wrote his first proclamation 
to the Russian people and read it to four of his fellow workers in the garage of the People's 
Commissariat of Petroleum. 

We had surrounded Viktor Alekseyevich from early morning, and he had meekly told us all this. We 
had still not fathomed his childish trustfulness — we were absorbed in his unusual story and — it was 
our fault — we forgot to warn him about the stoolie. In fact, we never even thought for one minute 
that there was any- thing in the naive and simple story he had told us that the inter- rogator didn't 
already know. 

The instant the story ended, Kramarenko began demanding to be taken either to the "chief of the 
prison for tobacco" or else to the doctor. At any rate, they summoned him quickly. And as soon as he 
got there he put the finger on those four workers in the garage of the People's Commissariat of 
Petroleum — whose existence no one would ever have suspected. (The next day, re- turning from his 
interrogation, Belov was astonished that the interrogator knew about them. And that's when it hit us.) 
Those workers had heard the proclamation and approved it all, and no one had turned in the 
Emperor! But he himself felt that it was too early, and he burned it. 

A year passed. Viktor Alekseyevich was working as a mechanic in the garage of an automobile 
depot. In the fall of 1944, he again wrote a proclamation and gave it to ten people to read — 
chauffeurs and lathe operators. All of them approved it. And no one turned him in. (It was a 
surprising thing, indeed, that not one person in that group of ten had turned him in, in that period of 
ubiquitous stool pigeons! Fastenko had not been mistaken in his deductions about the "mood of the 
working class.") True, in this case the Emperor had used some innocent tricks. He had thrown out 
hints that a strong arm inside the government was on his side. And he had promised his supporters 
travel assignments to rally monarchic sentiment at the grass roots. 

Months went by. The Emperor entrusted his secret to two girls at the garage. But this time there was 

no misfire. These girls turned out to be ideologically sound! And Viktor Alekseye- vich's heart sank: 
he had a premonition of disaster. On the Sunday after the Annunciation he went to the market, 
carrying the proclamation with him. One of his sympathizers among the old workers saw him there 
and said: "Viktor, you ought to burn that piece of paper for the time being; how about it?" And 
Viktor felt clearly that he had written it too soon, and that he should burn it. "I'll bum it right now! 
You're right." And he started home to bum it. But right there in the market two pleasant young men 
called out to him: "Viktor Alekseyevich! Come along with us!" And they took him to the Lubyanka 
in a private car. When they got him there, they had been in such a hurry and were so excited that 
they didn't search him in the usual way, and there was a moment when the Emperor almost destroyed 
his proclama- tion in the toilet. But he decided that it would be the worse for him, that they would 
keep after him anyway to find out where it was. And they straightaway took him in an elevator up to 
a general and a colonel, and the general with his own hands grabbed the proclamation from Viktor's 
pocket. 



However, it took only one interrogation for the Big Lubyanka to quiet down again. It turned out to be 
not so dangerous. Ten arrests in tlie garage of the auto depot and four in the garage of the People's 
Commissariat of Petroleum. The interrogation was turned over to a lieutenant colonel, who had a 
good laugh as he went through the proclamation: 

"You write here, Your Majesty: 'In the first spring I will instruct my Minister of Agriculture to 
dissolve the collective farms.' But how are you going to divide up the tools and live- stock? You 
haven't got it worked out yet. And then you also write: 'I am going to increase housing construction 
and house each person next to the place he works, and I am going to raise all the workers' wages.' 
And where are you going to find the money. Your Majesty? Are you going to have to run the money 
off on printing presses? You are going to abolish the state loans. And then, too: 'I am going to wipe 
the Kremlin from the face of the earth.' But where are you going to put your own govern- ment? 
What about the building of the Big Lubyanka? Would you like to take a tour of inspection and look 
it over?" 

Many of the younger interrogators also stopped by to make fun of the Emperor of All Russia. They 
saw nothing except comedy in all this. 

And it was not always easy for us in the cell to keep a straight face. "We hope you aren't going to 
forget us here in Cell No. 53," said Z v, winking at the rest of us. 

Everyone laughed at him. 

Viktor Alekseyevich, with his white eyebrows and innocent simplicity and his callused hands, would 
treat us when he received boiled potatoes from his unfortunate mother, Pelageya, without ever 
dividing them into "yours" and mine": "Come on, com- rades, eat up, eat up!" 

He used to smile shyly. He understood perfectly well how uncontemporary and funny all this was — 
to be the Emperor of All Russia. But what could he do if God's choice had fallen on him? 

They soon removed him from our cell. 

[When they introduced me to Khrushchev in 1962, 1 wanted to say to him: "Nikita Sergeyevich! You 
and I have an acquaintance in common." But I told him something else, more urgent, on behalf of 
former prisoners.] 

Just before May 1 they took down the blackout shade on the window. The war was perceptibly 
coming to an end. 

That evening it was quieter than ever before in the Lubyanka. It was, I remember, almost like the 
second day of Easter, since May Day and Easter came one after the other that year. All the 
interrogators were out in Moscow celebrating. No one was taken to interrogation. In the silence we 
could hear someone across the corridor protesting. They took him from the cell and into a box. By 
listening, we could detect the location of all the doors. They left the door of the box open, and they 
kept beating him a long time. In the suspended silence every blow on his soft and choking mouth 
could be heard clearly. 

On May 2 a thirty-gun salute roared out. That meant a Euro- pean capital. Only two had not yet been 
captured — Prague and Berlin. We tried to guess which it was. 

On the ninth of May they brought us our dinner at the same time as our lunch — which was done at 
the Lubyanka only on May 1 and November 7. 

And that is how we guessed that the war had ended. 



That evening they shot off another thirty-gun salute. We then knew that there were no more capitals 
to be captured. And later that same evening one more salute roared out — forty guns, I seem to 
remember. And that was the end of all the ends. 

Above the muzzle of our window, and from all the other cells of the Lubyanka, and from all the 
windows of all the Moscow prisons, we, too, former prisoners of war and former front-line soldiers, 
watched the Moscow heavens, patterned with fireworks and crisscrossed by the beams of 
searchlights. 

Boris Gammerov, a young antitank man, already demobilized because of wounds, with an incurable 
wound in his lung, having been arrested with a group of students, was in prison that eve- ning in an 
overcrowded Butyrki cell, where half the inmates were former POW's and front-line soldiers. He 
described this last salute of the war in a terse eight-stanza poem, in the most ordinary Ian- guage: 
how they were already lying down on their board bunks, covered with their overcoats; how they 
were awakened by the noise; how they raised their heads; squinted up at the muzzle — "Oh, it's just a 
salute" — and then lay down again: 

And once again covered themselves with their coats. 

With those same overcoats which had been in the clay of the trenches, and the ashes of bonfires, and 
been torn to tatters by German shell fragments. 

That victory was not for us. And that spring was not for us either. 

Chapter 6 

That Spring 

Through the windows of the Butyrki Prison every morning and evening in June, 1945, we could hear 
the brassy notes of bands not far away — coming from either Lesnaya Street or Novoslo- bodskaya. 
They kept playing marches over and over. 

Behind the murky green "muzzles" of reinforced glass, we stood at the wide-open but impenetrable 
prison windows and listened. Were they military units that were marching? Or were they work- ers 
cheerfully devoting their free time to marching practice? We didn't know, but the rumor had already 
gotten through to us that preparations were under way for a big Victory Parade on Red Square on 
June 22 — the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the war. 

The foundation stones of a great building are destined to groan and be pressed upon; it is not for 
them to crown the edifice. But even the honor of being part of the foundation was denied those 
whose doomed heads and ribs had borne the first blows of this war and thwarted the foreigners' 
victory, and who were now abandoned for no good reason. 

"Joyful sounds mean nought to the traitor." 

That spring of 1945 was, in our prisons, predominantly the spring of the Russian prisoners of war. 
They passed through the prisons of the Soviet Union in vast dense gray shoals like ocean herring. 
The first trace of those schools I glimpsed was Yuri Y. But I was soon entirely surrounded by their 
purposeful motion, which seemed to know its own fated design. 

Not only war prisoners passed through those cells. A wave of those who had spent any time in 

Europe was rolling too: emigres from the Civil War; the "ostovtsy" workers recruited as laborers 

by the Germans during World War II; Red Army officers who had been too astute and farsighted in 
their con- elusions, so that Stalin feared they might bring European free- dom back from their 



European crusade, like the Decembrists 120 years before. And yet it was the war prisoners who 
consti- tuted the bulk of the wave. And among the war prisoners of various ages, most were of my 
own age — not precisely my age, but the twins of October, those born along with the Revolution, who 
in 1937 had poured forth undismayed to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Revolution, and 
whose age group, at the beginning of the war, made up the standing army — which had been scattered 
in a matter of weeks. 

That tedious prison spring had, to the tune of the victory marches, become the spring of reckoning 
for my whole genera- tion. 

Over our cradles the rallying cry had resounded: "All power to the Soviets!" It was we who had 
reached out our suntanned childish hands to clutch the Pioneers' bugle, and who in response to the 
Pioneer challenge, "Be prepared," had saluted and an- swered: "We are always prepared!" It was we 
who had smuggled weapons into Buchenwald and joined the Communist Party there. And it was we 
who were now in disgrace, only because we had survived. 

[Those prisoners who had been in Buchenwald and survived were, in fact, imprisoned for that very 
reason in our own camps: How could you have sur- vived an annihilation camp? Something doesn't 
smell right!] 

Back when the Red Army had cut through East Prussia, I had seen downcast columns of returning 
war prisoners — the only people around who were grieving instead of celebrating. Even then their 
gloom had shocked me, though I didn't yet grasp the reason for it. I jumped down and went over to 
those voluntarily formed-up columns. (Why were they marching in columns? Why had they lined 
themselves up in ranks? After all, no one had compelled them to, and the war prisoners of all other 
nations went home as scattered individuals. But ours wanted to return as submissively as possible.) I 
was wearing a captain's shoulder boards, and they, plus the fact that I was moving forward, helped 
prevent my finding out why our POW's were so sad. But then fate turned me around and sent me in 
the wake of those prisoners along the same path they had taken. I had already marched with them 
from army counterintelligence headquarters to the head- quarters at the front, and when we got there 
I had heard their first stories, which I didn't yet understand; and then Yuri Y. told me the whole 
thing. And here beneath the domes of the brick-red Butyrki castle, I felt that the story of these 
several mil- lion Russian prisoners had got me in its grip once and for all, like a pin through a 
specimen beetle. My own story of landing in prison seemed insignificant. I stopped regretting my 
tom-off shoulder boards. It was mere chance that had kept me from end- ing up exactly where these 
contemporaries of mine had ended. I came to understand that it was my duty to take upon my 
shoulders a share of their common burden — and to bear it to the last man, until it crushed us. I now 
felt as if I, too, had fallen prisoner at the Solovyev crossing, in the Kharkov encirclement, in the 
quarries of Kerch, and, hands behind my back, had carried my Soviet pride behind the barbed wire of 
the concentration camps; that I, too, had stood for hours in the freezing cold for a ladle of cold Kawa 
(an ersatz coffee) and had been left on the ground for dead, without even reaching the kettle; that in 
Oflag 68 (Suwalki) I had used my hands and the lid of a mess tin to dig a bell-shaped (upturned, that 
is) foxhole, so as not to have to spend the winter on the open field; and that a maddened prisoner had 
crawled up to me as I lay dying to gnaw on the still warm flesh beneath my arm; and with every new 
day of exacerbated, famished consciousness, lying in a barracks riddled with typhus, or at the barbed 
wire of the neighboring camp for English POW's, the clear thought had penetrated my dying brain: 
Soviet Russia has renounced her dying children. She had needed them, "proud sons of Russia," as 
long as they let the tanks roll over them and it was still possible to rouse them to attack. But to feed 
them once they were war prisoners? Extra mouths. And extra witnesses to humiliating defeats. 

Sometimes we try to lie but our tongue will not allow us to. These people were labeled traitors, but a 

remarkable slip of the tongue occurred — on the part of the judges, prosecutors, and interrogators. 
And the convicted prisoners, the entire nation, and the newspapers repeated and reinforced this 
mistake, involuntarily letting the truth out of the bag. They intended to declare them "traitors to the 



Motherland." But they were universally referred to, in speech and in writing, even in the court 
documents, as "traitors of the Motherland." 

You said it! They were not traitors to her. They were her traitors. It was not they, the unfortunates, 
who had betrayed the Motherland, but their calculating Motherland who had betrayed them, and not 
just once but thrice. 

The first time she betrayed them was on the battlefield, through ineptitude — when the government, 

so beloved by the Mother- land, did everything it could to lose the war: destroyed the lines of 
fortifications; set up the whole air force for annihilation; dis- mantled the tanks and artillery; 
removed the effective generals; and forbade the armies to resist. 

[Now, after twenty-seven years, the first honest work on this subject has appeared — P. G. 
Grigorenko, "A Letter to the Magazine Problems of the His- tory of the Communist Party of the 
Soviet Union" samizdat, 1968 — and such works are going to multiply from here on out. Not all the 
witnesses died. And soon no one will call Stalin's government anything but a government of insanity 
and treason.] 

And the war prisoners were the men whose bodies took the blow and stopped the Wehrmacht. 

The second time they were heartlessly betrayed by the Mother- land was when she abandoned them 
to die in captivity. 

And the third time they were unscrupulously betrayed was when, with motherly love, she coaxed 
them to return home, with such phrases as "The Motherland has forgiven you! The Mother- land 
calls you!" and snared them the moment they reached the frontiers. 

[One of the biggest war criminals. Colonel General Golikov, former chief of the Red Army's 
intelligence administration, was put in charge of coaxing the repatriates home and swallowing them 
up.] 

It would appear that during the one thousand one hundred years of Russia's existence as a state there 
have been, ah, how many foul and terrible deeds! But among them was there ever so multimillioned 
foul a deed as this: to betray one's own soldiers and proclaim them traitors? 

How easily we left them out of our own accounting! He was a traitor? For shame! Write him off! 
And our Father wrote them off, even before we did: he threw the flower of Moscow's in- telligentsia 
into the Vyazma meat grinder with Berdan single- loading rifles, vintage 1866, and only one for 
every five men at that. What Lev Tolstoi is going to describe that Borodino for us? And with one 
stupid slither of his greasy, stubby finger, the Great Strategist sent 120,000 of our young men, almost 
as many as all the Russian forces at Borodino, across the Strait of Kerch in December, 1941 — 
senselessly, and exclusively for the sake of a sensational New Year's communique — and he turned 
them all over to the Germans without a fight. 

And yet, for some reason, it was not he who was the traitor, but they. 

(How easily we let ourselves be taken in by partisan labels; how easily we agreed to regard these 
devoted men as — traitors! In one of the Butyrki cells that spring, there was an old man, Lebedev, a 
metallurgist, a professor in rank, and in appearance a stalwart artisan of the last century or maybe 
even the century before, from, say, the famous Demidov iron foundries. He was broad of shoulder, 
broad of head, wore a Pugachev-like beard, and the wide span of his hand could lift a 150-pound 
bucket. In the cell he wore a faded gray laborer's smock over his under- wear; he was slovenly and 
might have been an auxiliary prison worker — until he sat down to read, and then his habitual 
powerful intelligence lit up his face. The men often gathered around him. He discussed metallurgy 



very little, but explained to us in his kettledrum bass voice that Stalin was exactly the same kind of 
dog as Ivan the Terrible: "Shoot!" "Strangle!" "Don't hesitate!" He explained to us also that Maxim 
Gorky had been a slobbering prattler, an apologist for executioners. I was very much taken with this 
Lebedev. It was as though the whole Russian people were embodied, there before my eyes, in that 
one thick- set torso with that intelligent head and the arms and legs of a plowman. He had already 
thought through so much! I learned from him to understand the world! And suddenly, with a 
chopping gesture of his huge hand, he thundered out that those charged under Article 58- lb were 
traitors of the Motherland and must not be forgiven. And those very same Ib's were piled up on the 
board bunks all around. And how hurtful to them this was! The old man was pontificating with such 
conviction in the name of Rus- sia's peasantry and labor that they were abashed and found it hard to 
defend themselves against the attack from this new direction. I was the one to whom it fell, along 
with two boys charged under 58-10, to defend them and to argue with the old man. But what depths 
of enforced ignorance were achieved by the monstrous lies of the state. Even the most broad-minded 
of us can embrace only that part of the truth into which our own snout has blun- dered,) 

[Vitkovsky writes about this, on the basis of the thirties, in more general terms. It was astonishing 

that the pseudo wreckers, who knew perfectly well that they weren't wreckers, believed that military 
men and priests were being shaken up justifiably. The military men, who knew they hadn't worked 
for foreign intelligence services and had not sabotaged the Red Army, beUeved readily enough that 
the engineers were wreckers and that the priests deserved to be destroyed. Imprisoned, the Soviet 
person reasoned in the following way: I personally am innocent, but any methods are justified in 
dealing with those others, the enemies. The lessons of interrogation and the cell failed to enlighten 
such people. Even after they themselves had been convicted, they retained the blind beliefs of their 
days in freedom: belief in universal conspiracies, poi- sonings, wrecking, espionage.] 

How many wars Russia has been involved in! (It would have been better if there had been fewer.) 
And were there many traitors in all those wars? Had anyone observed that treason had become 
deeply rooted in the hearts of Russian soldiers? Then, under the most just social system in the world, 
came the most just war of all — and out of nowhere millions of traitors appeared, from among the 
simplest, lowliest elements of the population. How is this to be understood and explained? 

Capitalist England fought at our side against Hitler; Marx had eloquently described the poverty and 
suffering of the work- ing class in that same England. Why was it that in this war only one traitor 
could be found among them, the businessman "Lord Haw Haw" — but in our country millions? 

It is frightening to open one's trap about this, but might the heart of the matter not be in the political 
system? 

One of our most ancient proverbs justifies the war prisoner: "The captive will cry out, but the dead 
man never." During the reign of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, nobility was granted for durance in 
captivity! And in all subsequent wars it was considered society's duty to exchange prisoners, to 
comfort one's own and to give them sustenance and aid. Every escape from captivity was glorified as 
the height of heroism. Throughout World War I, money was collected in Russia to aid our prisoners 
of war, and our nurses were permitted to go to Germany to help our prisoners, and our newspapers 
reminded their readers daily that our pris- oners of war, our compatriots, were languishing in evil 
captivity. 

All the Western peoples behaved the same in our war: parcels, letters, all kinds of assistance flowed 
freely through the neutral countries. The Western POW's did not have to lower themselves to accept 
ladlefuls from German soup kettles. They talked back to the German guards. Western governments 
gave their captured soldiers their seniority rights, their regular promotions, even their pay. 

The only soldier in the world who cannot surrender is the soldier of the world's one and only Red 
Army. That's what it says in our military statutes. (The Germans would shout at us from their 



trenches: "Ivan plen nicht!" — "Ivan no prisoner!") Who can picture all that means? There is war; 
there is death — but there is no surrender! What a discovery! What it means is: Go and die; we will 
go on living. And if you lose your legs, yet man- age to return from captivity on crutches, we will 
convict you. (The Leningrader Ivanov, commander of a machine-gun platoon in the Finnish War, 
was subsequently thus imprisoned in Ustvym- lag, for example. ) 

Our soldiers alone, renounced by their Motherland and de- graded to nothing in the eyes of enemies 
and allies, had to push their way to the swine swill being doled out in the backyards of the Third 
Reich. Our soldiers alone had the doors shut tight to keep them from returning to their homes, 
although their young souls tried hard not to believe this. There was something called Article 58-lb — 
and, in wartime, it provided only for execution by shooting! For not wanting to die from a German 
bullet, the prisoner had to die from a Soviet bullet for having been a prisoner of war! Some get theirs 
from the enemy; we get it from our own! 

Incidentally, it is very naive to say What for? At no time have governments been moralists. They 
never imprisoned people and executed them /or having done something. They imprisoned and 
executed them to keep them from doing something. They im- prisoned all those POWs, of course, 
not /or treason to the Mother- land, because it was absolutely clear even to a fool that only the 
Vlasov men could be accused of treason. They imprisoned all of them to keep them from telling their 
fellow villagers about Europe. What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve for. 

What, then, were the courses of action open to Russian war prisoners? There was only one legally 
acceptable course: to lie down and let oneself be trampled to death. Every blade of grass pushes its 
fragile length upward in order to live. As for you — lie down and be trampled on. Even though 
you've been slow about it, even though you couldn't do it on the battlefield, at least die now; then 
you will not be prosecuted. 

The soldiers sleep. They spoke their word 
And they are right for eternity. 

And every other path which, in desperation, your mind may invent is going to lead you into conflict 
with the Law. 

Escape and return to the Motherland — past the guards ring- ing the camp, across half Germany, then 
through Poland or the Balkans — led straight to SMERSH and prison. They were asked: How did you 
manage to escape when others couldn't? This stinks! Come on, you rat, what assignment did they 
give you? (Mikhail Bumatsev, Pavel Bondarenko, and many, many others.) 

[It has become the accepted thing for our literary critics to say that Shol- okhov, in his immortal 
story "Sudba Cheloveka" — "The Fate of a Man" — spoke the "bitter truth" about "this side of our 
life" and that he "revealed" the problem. But we must retort that in this story, which is in general 
very inferior, and in which the passages about the war are pale and unconvincing — since the author 
evidently knew nothing about the last war — and the descriptions of Germans are unconvincing 
cartoon cliches (only the hero's wife is successfully portrayed — because she is a pure Christian 
straight out of Dostoyevsky), in this story about a war prisoner, the real problem of the war 
prisoners was hidden or distorted: 

(1) The author picked the least incriminating form of being taken prisoner conceivable — the soldier 

was captured while unconscious, so as to make him noncontroversial and to bypass the whole 
poignancy of the problem. (What if he had been conscious when he was taken prisoner, as was most 
often the case? What would have happened to him then?) 

(2) The fact that the Motherland had deserted us, had renounced us, had cursed us, was not presented 
as the war prisoner's chief problem. Sholokhov says not a word about it. But it was because of that 



particular factor that there was no way out. On the contrary, he identifies the presence of traitors 
among us as constituting the problem. (But if this really was the main thing, one might then expect 
him to have investigated further and explained where they came from a full quarter-century after a 
Revolution that was supported by the entire people!) 

(3) Sholokhov dreamed up a fantastic, spy-story escape from captivity, stretching innumerable points 
to avoid the obligatory, inevitable procedural step of the returned war prisoner's reception in 
SMERSH — the Identification and Screening Camp. Not only was Sokolov, the hero, not put behind 
barbed wire, as provided in the regulations, but — and this is a real joke — he was given a month's 
holiday by his colonel! (In other words: the freedom to carry out the assignment given him by the 
Fascist intelligence service. So his colonel would end up in the same place as he!)] 

Escaping to the Western partisans, to the Resistance forces, only postponed your full reckoning with 
the military tribunal; also, it made you still more dangerous. You could have acquired a very harmful 
spirit through living freely among Europeans. And if you had not been afraid to escape and continue 
to fight, it meant you were a determined person and thus doubly dangerous in the Motherland. 

Did you survive POW camp at the expense of your com- patriots and comrades? Did you become a 
member of the camp Polizei, or a commandant, a helper of the Germans and of death? Stalinist law 
did not punish you any more severely than if you had operated with the Resistance forces. It was the 
same article of the Code and the same term — and one could guess why too. Such a person was less 
dangerous. But the inert law that is in- explicably implanted in us forbade this path to all except the 
dregs. 

In addition to those four possibilities — either impossible or un- acceptable — there was a fifth: to wait 
for German recruiters, to see what they would summon you to. 

Sometimes, fortunately, representatives came from German rural districts to select hired men for 
their farmers. Sometimes they came from corporations and picked out engineers and mechanics. 
According to the supreme Stalinist imperative you should have rejected that too. You should have 
concealed the fact that you were an engineer. You should have concealed the fact that you were a 
skilled worker. As an industrial designer or electrician, you could have preserved your patriotic 
purity only if you had stayed in the POW camp to dig in the earth, to rot, to pick through the garbage 
heap. In that case, for pure treason to the Motherland, you could count on getting, your head raised 
high in pride, ten years in prison and five more "muzzled." Whereas for treason to the Motherland 
aggravated by working for the enemy, especially in one's own profession, you got, with bowed head, 
the same ten years in prison and five more muzzled. 

And that was the jeweler's precision of a behemoth — Stalin's trademark. 

Now and then recruiters turned up who were of quite a dif- ferent stripe — Russians, usually recent 
Communist political com- missars. White Guards didn't accept that type of employment. These 
recruiters scheduled a meeting in the camp, condemned the Soviet regime, and appealed to prisoners 
to enlist in spy schools or in Vlasov units. 

People who have never starved as our war prisoners did, who have never gnawed on bats that 
happened to fly into the barracks, who have never had to boil the soles of old shoes, will never 
understand the irresistible material force exerted by any kind of appeal, any kind of argument 
whatever, if behind it, on the other side of the camp gates, smoke rises from a field kitchen, and if 
everyone who signs up is fed a bellyful of kasha right then and there — if only once! Just once more 
before I die! 

And hovering over the steaming kasha and the inducements of the recruiter was the apparition of 
freedom and a real life — wherever it might call! To the Vlasov battalions. To the Cossack regiments 



of Krasnov. To the labor battalions — pouring cement in the future Atlantic Wall. To the fjords of 
Norway. To the sands of Libya. To the "Hiwi" units ("Hilfswillige" — volunteers in the German 
Wehrmacht — there being twelve "Hiwi" men in each German company). And then, finally, to the 
village Polizei, who pursued and caught partisans — many of whom the Mother- land would also 
renounce. Wherever it might call, any place at all, at least anything so as not to stay there and die 
like abandoned cattle. 

We ourselves released from every obligation, not merely to his Motherland but to all humanity, the 
human being whom we drove to gnawing on bats. 

And those of our boys who agreed to become half-baked spies still had not drawn any drastic 
conclusions from their abandoned state; they were still, in fact, acting very patriotically. They saw 
this course as the least difficult means of getting out of POW camp. Almost to a man, they decided 
that as soon as the Germans sent them across to the Soviet side, they would turn themselves in to the 
authorities, turn in their equipment and instructions, and join their own benign command in laughing 
at the stupid Germans. They would then put on their Red Army uniforms and return to fight bravely 
in their units. And tell me, who, speaking in human terms, could have expected anything else? How 
could it have been any other way? These were straightforward, sincere men. I saw many of them. 
They had honest round faces and spoke with an attractive Vyatka or Vladimir accent. They boldly 
joined up as spies, even though they'd had only four or five grades of rural school and were not even 
competent to cope with map and compass. 

It appears that they picked the only way out they could. And one would suppose that the whole thing 
was an expensive and stupid game on the part of the German Command. But no! Hitler played in 
rhythm and in tune with his brother dictator! Spy mania was one of the fundamental aspects of 
Stalin's insanity. It seemed to Stalin that the country was swarming with spies. All the Chinese who 
Uved in the Soviet Far East were convicted as spies — Article 58-6 — and were taken to the northern 
camps, where they perished. The same fate had awaited Chinese participants in the Soviet civil 
war — if they hadn't cleared out in time. Several hundred thousand Koreans were exiled to 
Kazakhstan, all similarly ac- cused of spying. All Soviet citizens who at one time or another had 
Uved abroad, who at one time or another had hung around Intourist hotels, who at one time or 
another happened to be photographed next to a foreigner, or who had themselves photo- graphed a 
city building (the Golden Gate in Vladimir) were accused of the same crime. Those who stared too 
long at railroad tracks, at a highway bridge, at a factory chimney were similarly charged. All the 
numerous foreign Communists stranded in the Soviet Union, all the big and little Comintern officials 
and em- ployees, one after another, without any individual distinctions, were charged first of all with 
espionage. 

[ losip Tito just barely escaped this fate. And Popov and Tanev, fellow defendants of Dimitrov in the 
Leipzig trial, both got prison terms. (For Dimi- trov himself Stalin prepared another fate.)] 

And the Latvian Rifle- men — whose bayonets were the most reliable in the first years of the 
Revolution — were also accused of espionage when they were arrested to a man in 1937. Stalin seems 
somehow to have twisted around and maximized the famous declaration of that coquette Catherine 
the Great: he would rather that 999 innocent men should rot than miss one genuine spy. Given all 
this, how could one believe and trust Russian soldiers who had really been in the hands of the 
German intelligence service? And how it eased the burden for the MGB executioners when 
thousands of soldiers pouring in from Europe did not even try to conceal that they had voluntarily 
enlisted as spies. What an astonishing con- firmation of the predictions of the Wisest of the Wise! 
Come on, keep coming, you silly fools! The article and the retribution have long since been waiting 
for you! 

But it is appropriate to ask one thing more. There still were prisoners of war who did not accept 
recruiting offers, who never worked for the Germans at their profession or trade, and who were not 



camp police, who spent the whole war in POW camps, without sticking their noses outside, and who, 
in spite of every- thing, did not die, however unlikely this was. For example, they made cigarette 
lighters out of scrap metal, like the electrical engineers Nikolai Andreyevich Semyonov and Fyodor 
Fyodoro- vich Karpov, and in that way managed to get enough to eat. And did the Motherland 
forgive them for surrendering? 

No, it did not forgive them! I met both Semyonov and Karpov in the Butyrki after they had already 
received their lawful sen- tence. And what was it? The alert reader already knows: ten years of 
imprisonment and five muzzled. As brilliant engineers, they had rejected German offers to work at 
their profession. In 1941 Junior Lieutenant Semyonov had gone to the front as a volunteer. In 1942 
he still didn't have a revolver; instead, he had an empty holster — and the interrogator could not 
understand why he hadn't shot himself with his holster! He had escaped from captivity three times. 
And in 1945, after he had been Uberated from a concentration camp, seated atop a tank as a member 
of a penalty unit of tank-borne infantry, he took part in the capture of Berlin and received the Order 
of the Red Star. Yet, after all that, he was finally imprisoned and sentenced. All of this mirrored our 
Nemesis. 

Very few of the war prisoners returned across the Soviet border as free men, and if one happened to 
get through by accident be- cause of the prevailing chaos, he was seized later on, even as late as 
1946 or 1947. Some were arrested at assembly points in Ger- many. Others weren't arrested openly 
right away but were trans- ported from the border in freight cars, under convoy, to one of the 
numerous Identification and Screening Camps (PFL's) scat- tered throughout the country. These 
camps differed in no way from the common run of Corrective Labor Camps (ITL's) ex- cept that 
their prisoners had not yet been sentenced but would be sentenced there. All these PFL's were also 
attached to some kind of factory, or mine, or construction project, and the former POW's, looking 
out on the Motherland newly restored to them through the same barbed wire through which they had 
seen Germany, could begin work from their first day on a ten-hour work day. Those under suspicion 
were questioned during their rest periods, in the evenings, and at night, and there were large numbers 
of Security officers and interrogators in the PFL's for this purpose. As always, the interrogation 
began with the hypothesis that you were obviously guilty. And you, without going outside the barbed 
wire, had to prove that you were not guilty. Your only available means to this end was to rely on 
witnesses who were exactly the same kind of POW's as you. 

Obviously they might not have turned up in your own PFL; they might, in fact, be at the other end of 
the country; in that case, the Security officers of, say, Kemerovo would send off inquiries to the 
Security officers of Solikamsk, who would question the wit- nesses and send back their answers 
along with new inquiries, and you yourself would be questioned as a witness in some other case. 
True, it might take a year or two before your fate was resolved, but after all, the Motherland was 
losing nothing in the process. You were out mining coal every day. And if one of your witnesses 
gave the wrong sort of testimony about you, or if none of your witnesses was alive, you had only 
yourself to blame, and you were sure to be entered in the documents as a traitor o/the Motherland. 
And the visiting military court would rubber- stamp your tenner. And if, despite all their twisting 
things about, it appeared that you really hadn't worked for the Germans, and if — and this was the 
main point — you had not had the chance to see the Americans and English with your own eyes (to 
have been liberated from captivity by them instead of by us was a gravely aggravating circumstance), 
then the Security officers would decide the degree of isolation in which you were to be held. Certain 
people were ordered to change their place of resi- dence — which always breaks a person's ties with 
his environment and makes him more vulnerable. Others were valiantly offered the chance to go to 
work in the VOKhR, the Militarized Guard Service. In that situation, while nominally remaining 
free, a man lost all his personal freedom and was sent off to some isolated area. There was a third 
category: after a handshake, some were humanely permitted to return home, although, even without 
aggravating circumstances, they deserved to be shot for having surrendered. But people in this 
category celebrated prematurely! Even before the former prisoner arrived home, his case had 
reached his home district through the secret channels of State Security. These people remained 



eternally outsiders. And with the first mass arrests, like those of 1948-1949, they were im- mediately 
arrested for hostile propaganda or some other reason. I was imprisoned with people in that category 
too. 

"Oh, if I had only known!" That was the refrain in the prison cells that spring. If I had only known 
that this was how I would be greeted! That they would deceive me so! That this would be my fate! 
Would I have really returned to my Motherland? Not for anything! I would have made my way to 
Switzerland, to France! I would have gone across the sea, across the ocean! Across three oceans! 

[In actual fact, even when POW's actually knew what would happen to them, they behaved in exactly 
the same way. Vasily Aleksandrov was taken prisoner in Finland. He was sought out there by some 
elderly Petersburg merchant who asked him his name and patronymic and then said: "In 19171 owed 
your grandfather a large debt, and I didn't have the chance to pay it. Here you are — take it!" An old 
debt is a windfall! After the war Aleksandrov was accepted by the circle of Russian emigres, and he 
got engaged to a girl there whom he came to love — and not just casually. To educate him, his future 
father-in-law gave him a bound set of Pravda — just as it was issued from 1918 to 1941, without any 
deletions or corrections. At the same time, he recounted to him more or less completely the history 
of the waves of arrests, as we have set it forth in Chapter 2, above. And nevertheless . . . Aleksandrov 
abandoned his fiancee, and his wealth, and returned to the U.S.S.R., where he was given, as one can 
easily guess, ten years and disenfranchisement for five more. In 1953 he was happy to have managed 
to snag himself a job as foreman in a Special Camp.] 

But the more thoughtful prisoners corrected them. They had made their mistake earlier! They were 
stupid to have dashed off to the front lines in 1941. It takes a fool to rush off to war! Right from the 
start, they should have gotten themselves set up in the rear. Somewhere quiet. Those who did are 
heroes now. And it would have been an even surer thing just to desert. Almost cer- tainly, one's skin 
would be whole. They didn't get ten years either — but eight, or seven. And they weren't excluded 
from any of the cushy jobs in camp. After all, a deserter was not regarded as an enemy or a traitor or 
a political prisoner. He was con- sidered not a hostile factor but a friendly one, a nonpolitical 
ofi'ender, so to speak. That point of view aroused passionate argument and objections. The deserters 
had to spend all those years rotting in prison, and they would not be forgiven. But there would soon 
be an amnesty for everyone else; they would all be released. (At that time the principal advantage of 
being a deserter was still unknown.) 

Those who had gotten in via 58-10, snatched from their apartments or from the Red Army, often 
envied the rest. What the hell! For the very same money, in other words for the same ten-year 
sentence, they could have seen so many interesting things, like those other fellows, who had been 
just about every- where! And here we are, about to croak in camp, without ever having seen anything 
beyond our own stinking stairs. Inciden- tally, those who were in on Article 58-10 could hardly 
conceal their triumphant presentiment that they would be the first to be amnestied. 

The only ones who did not sigh: "Oh, if I had only known" — because they knew very well what they 
were doing — and the only ones who did not expect any mercy and did not expect an amnesty — were 
the Vlasov men. 

I had known about them and been perplexed about them long before our unexpected meeting on the 
board bunks of prison. 

First there had been the leaflets, repeatedly soaked through, dried out, and lost in the high grass — 
uncut for the third year — of the front-line strip near Orel. In December, 1942, they had announced 
the creation in Smolensk of a "Russian Committee" — which apparently claimed to be some sort of 
Russian govern- ment and yet at the same time seemed not to be one. Evidently the Germans 
themselves had not yet made up their minds. For that reason, the communique seemed to be a hoax. 
There was a photograph of General Vlasov in the leaflets, and his biography was outlined. In the 



fuzzy photograph, his face looked well fed and successful, like all our generals of the new stripe. 
They told me later that this wasn't so, that Vlasov's face was more like that of a Western general — 
high, thin, with horn-rimmed glasses. His biography testified to a penchant for success. He had 
begun in a peasant family, and 1937 had not broken his skyrocketing career; nor was it ruined by his 
service as a military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek. The first and only disaster of his earlier life had 
occurred when his Second Shock Army, after being en- circled, was ineptly abandoned to die of 
starvation. But how much of that whole biography could be believed? 

[As far as one can establish at this late date, Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov, prevented by the 
Revolution from completing his studies at the Nizhni Nov- gorod Orthodox Seminary, was drafted 
into the Red Army in 1919 and fought as an enlisted man. On the southern front, against Denikin and 
Wrangel, he rose to be commander of a platoon, then of a company. In the twenties he completed the 
Vystrel courses. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1930. In 1936, having attained the 
rank of regimental commander, he was sent to China as a military adviser. Evidently he had no ties 
to the top military and Party circles, and he therefore turned up naturally in that Stalinist "second 
echelon" of officers promoted to replace the purged commanders of armies, divisions, and brigades. 
From 1938 on he commanded a division. And in 1940, when "new" (in other words, old) officer 
ranks were created, he became a major general. From additional information one can conclude that 
in that corps of newly made generals, many of whom were totally stupid and inexperi- enced, Vlasov 
was one of the most talented. His 99th Infantry Division, which he had instructed and trained from 
the summer of 1940 on, was not caught off balance by the German attack. On the contrary, while the 
rest of the army reeled backward, his division advanced, retook Przemysl, and held it for six days. 
Quickly skipping the rank of corps commander, in 1941 Lieutenant Gen- eral Vlasov was in 
command of the Thirty -seventh Army near Kiev. He made his way out of the enormous Kiev 
encirclement and in December, 1941, near Moscow he commanded the Twentieth Army, whose 
successful Soviet counter- offensive for defense of the capital (the taking of Solnechnogorsk) was 
noted in the Sovinformburo communique for December 12. And the list of generals mentioned there 
was as follows: Zhukov, Lelyushenko, Kuznetsov, Vlasov, Rokossovsky, Govorov. Thanks to the 
speed with which officers were promoted in those months, he became Deputy Commander of the 
Volkhov Front (under Meretskov), and took over command of the Second Shock Army. On January 
7, 1942, at the head of that army, he began a drive to break the Leningrad blockade — an attack 
across the Volkhov River to the northwest. This had been planned as a combined operation, a 
concerted push from several direc- tions and from Leningrad itself. At scheduled intervals the Fifty- 
fourth, the Fourth, and the Fifty-second armies were to take part in it also. But those three armies 
either did not advance because they were unready or else came to a quick halt. At that time we still 
didn't have the capacity to plan such complex combined operations, and, more importantly, provide 
supplies for them. Vlasov's Second Shock Army, however, was successful in its assault, and by 
February, 1942, it was 46 miles deep inside the German lines ! And from then on, the reckless 
Stalinist Supreme Command could find neither men nor ammunition to reinforce even those troops. 
(That's the kind of reserves they had begun the offensive with!) Leningrad, too, was left to die 
behind the blockade, having received no specific information from Novgorod. During March the 
winter roads still held up. From April on, however, the entire swampy area through which the 
Second Army had advanced melted into mud, and there were no supply roads, and there was no help 
from the air. The army was without food and, at the same time, Vlasov was refused permission to re- 
treat. For two months they endured starvation and extermination. In the Butyrki, soldiers from that 
army told me how they had cut off the hoofs of dead and rotting horses and boiled the scrapings and 
eaten them. Then, on May 14, a German attack was launched from all sides against the encircled 
army. The only planes in the air, of course, were German. And only then, in mockery, were they 
given permission to pull back behind the Volkhov. They made several hopeless attempts to break 
through — until the beginning of July. 

And so it was that Vlasov's Second Shock Army perished, literally recapitu- lating the fate of 
Samsonov's Russian Second Army in World War I, having been just as insanely thrown into 
encirclement. 



Now this, of course, was treason to the Motherland! This, of course, was vicious, self-obsessed 
betrayal! But it was Stalin's. Treason does not necessarily involve selling out for money. It can 
include ignorance and carelessness in the preparations for war, confusion and cowardice at its very 
start, the meaningless sacrifice of armies and corps solely for the sake of saving one's own marshal's 
uniform. Indeed, what more bitter treason is there on the part of a Supreme Commander in Chief? 

Unlike Samsonov, Vlasov did not commit suicide. After his army had been wiped out, he wandered 
among the woods and swamps and, on July 6, per- sonally surrendered in the area of Siverskaya. He 
was taken to the German headquarters near Lotzen in East Prussia, where they were holding several 
captured generals and a brigade political commissar, G. N. Zhilenkov, formerly a successful Party 
official and secretary of one of the Moscow District Party Committees. These captives had already 
confessed their disagreement with the policy of the Stalin government. But they had no real leader. 
Vlasov became it.] 

From his photograph, it was impossible to believe that he was an outstanding man or that for long 
years he had suffered pro- foundly for Russia. As for the leaflets reporting the creation of the ROA, 
the "Russian Liberation Army," not only were they written in bad Russian, but they were imbued 
with an alien spirit that was clearly German and, moreover, seemed little con- cerned with their 
presumed subject; besides, and on the other hand, they contained crude boasting about the plentiful 
chow available and the cheery mood of the soldiers. Somehow one couldn't believe in that army, 
and, if it really did exist, what kind of cheery mood could it be in? Only a German could lie like that. 

[In reality there was no Russian Liberation Army until almost the very end of the war. Both the name 
and the insignia devised for it were invented by a German of Russian origin. Captain Strik-Strikfeldt, 
in the Ost-Propaganda- Abteilung. Although he held only a minor position, he had influence, and he 
tried to convince the Hitlerite leadership that a German-Russian alliance was essential and that the 
Russians should be encouraged to collaborate with Ger- nany. A vain undertaking for both sides! 
Each side wanted only to use and leceive the other. But, in the given situation, the Germans had 
power — they were on top of the setup. And the Vlasov officers had only their fantasy — at the bottom 
of the abyss. There was no such army, but anti-Soviet formations made up of Soviet citizens were 
organized from the very start of the war. The irst to support the Germans were the Lithuanians. In the 
one year we had been there we had aroused their deep, angry hostility! And then the SS-Galicia 
Division was created from Ukrainian volunteers. And Estonian units afterward. In the fall of 1941, 
guard companies appeared in Byelorussia. And a Tatar battalion in the Crimea. We ourselves had 
sowed the seeds of all this! 

Take, for example, our stupid twenty-year policy of closing and destroying the Moslem mosques in 
the Crimea. And compare that with the policy of the farsighted conqueror Catherine the Great, who 
contributed state funds for building and expanding the Crimean mosques. And the Hitlerites, when 
they arrived, were smart enough to present themselves as their defenders. Later, Caucasian 
detachments and Cossack armies — more than a cavalry corps — put in an appearance on the German 
side. In the first winter of the war, platoons and companies of Russian volunteers began to be 
formed. But the German Command was very distrustful of these Russian units, and their master ser- 
geants and lieutenants were Germans. Only their noncoms below master ser- geant were Russian. 
They also used such German commands as "Achtung!," "Halt!" etc. More significant and entirely 
Russian were the following units: a brigade in Lokot, in Bryansk Province, from November, 1941, 
when a local teacher of engineering, K. P. Voskoboinikov, proclaimed the "National Labor Party of 
Russia" and issued a manifesto to the citizens of the nation, hoisting the flag of St. George; a unit in 
the Osintorf settlement near Orsha, formed at the beginning of 1942 under the leadership of Russian 
emigres (it must be said that only a small group of Russian emigres joined this movement, and even 
they did not conceal their anti-German feelings and allowed many cross- overs [including a whole 
battalion] to the Soviet side . . . after which they were dropped by the Germans); and a unit formed 
by Gil, in the summer of 1942, near Lublin. (V. V. Gil, a Communist Party member and even, it 
seems, a Jew, not only survived as a POW but, with the help of other POW's, became the head of a 



camp near Suwalki and offered to create a "fighting alliance of Russian nationalists" for the 
Germans.) However, there was as yet no Russian Liberation Army in all of this and no Vlasov. The 
companies under German command were put on the Russian front, as an experiment, and the 
Russian units were sent against the Bryansk, Orsha, and Polish partisans.] 

We soon discovered that there really were Russians fighting against us and that they fought harder 
than any SS men. In July, 1943, for example, near Orel, a platoon of Russians in German uniform 
defended Sobakinskiye Vyselki. They fought with the desperation that might have been expected if 
they had built the place themselves. One of them was driven into a root cellar. They threw hand 
grenades in after him and he fell silent. But they had no more than stuck their heads in than he let 
them have another volley from his automatic pistol. Only when they lobbed in an antitank grenade 
did they find out that, within the root cellar, he had another foxhole in which he had taken shelter 
from the infantry grenades. Just try to imagine the degree of shock, deafness, and hopelessness in 
which he had kept on fighting. 

They defended, for example, the unshakable Dnieper bridge- head south of Tursk. For two weeks we 

continued to fight there for a mere few hundred yards. The battles were fierce in Decem- ber, 1943, 
and so was the cold. Through many long days both we and they went through the extreme trials of 
winter, fighting in winter camouflage cloaks that covered our overcoats and caps. Near Malye 
Kozlovichi, I was told, an interesting encounter took place. As the soldiers dashed back and forth 
among the pines, things got confused, and two soldiers lay down next to one another. No longer very 
accurately oriented, they kept shooting at someone, somewhere over there. Both had Soviet 
automatic pistols. They shared their cartridges, praised one another, and together swore at the grease 
freezing on their automatic pistols. Finally, their pistols stopped firing altogether, and they decided 
to take a break and light up. They pulled back their white hoods — and at the same instant each saw 
the other's cap ... the eagle and the star. They jumped up! Their automatic pistols still refused to fire! 
Grabbing them by the barrel and swinging them like clubs, they began to go at each other. This, if 
you will, was not politics and not the Motherland, but just sheer caveman distrust: If I take pity on 
him, he is going to kill me. 

In East Prussia, a trio of captured Vlasov men was being marched along the roadside a few steps 
away from me. At that moment a T-34 tank thundered down the highway. Suddenly one of the 
captives twisted around and dived underneath the tank. The tank veered, but the edge of its track 
crushed him neverthe- less. The broken man lay writhing, bloody foam coming from his mouth. And 
one could certainly understand him! He pre- ferred a soldier's death to being hanged in a dungeon. 

They had no choice. There was no other way for them to fight. They had no chance to find a way 
out, to safeguard their lives, by some more cautious mode of fighting. If "pure" surrender was 
considered unforgivable treason to the Motherland, then what about those who had taken up enemy 
arms? Our propaganda, in all its crudity, explained their conduct as: (1) treason (was it biologically 
based? carried in the bloodstream?) ; or (2) coward- ice — which it certainly was not! A coward tries 
to find a spot where things are easy, soft, safe. And men could be induced to enter the Wehrmacht's 
Vlasov detachments only in the last ex- tremity, only at the limit of desperation, only out of 
inexhaustible hatred of the Soviet regime, only with total contempt for their own safety. For they 
knew they would never have the faintest glimpse of mercy! When we captured them, we shot them 
as soon as the first intelligible Russian word came from their mouths. In Russian captivity, as in 
German captivity, the worst lot of all was reserved for the Russians. 

In general, this war revealed to us that the worst thing in the world was to be a Russian. 

I recall with shame an incident I observed during the liquida- tion — in other words, the plundering — 
of the Bobruisk encircle- ment, when I was walking along the highway among wrecked and 
overturned German automobiles, and a wealth of booty lay scattered everywhere. German cart 
horses wandered aimlessly in and out of a shallow depression where wagons and automo- biles that 



had gotten stuck were buried in the mud, and bonfires of booty were smoking away. Then I heard a 
cry for help: "Mr. Captain! Mr. Captain!" A prisoner on foot in German britches was crying out to 
me in pure Russian. He was naked from the waist up, and his face, chest, shoulders, and back were 
all bloody, while a sergeant osobist, a Security man, seated on a horse, drove him forward with a 
whip, pushing him with his horse. He kept lashing that naked back up and down with the whip, 
without letting him turn around, without letting him ask for help. He drove him along, beating and 
beating him, raising new crimson welts on his skin. 

And this was not one of the Punic Wars, nor a war between the Greeks and the Persians! Any officer, 
possessing any author- ity, in any army on earth ought to have stopped that senseless torture. In any 
army on earth, yes, but in ours? Given our fierce and uncompromising method of dividing mankind? 
(If you are not with us, if you are not our own, etc., then you deserve nothing but contempt and 
annihilation.) So I was afraid to defend the Vlasov man against the osobist. / said nothing and I did 
nothing. I passed him by as if I could not hear him ... so that I myself would not be infected by that 
universally recognized plague. (What if the Vlasov man was indeed some kind of supervillain? Or 
maybe the osobist would think something was wrong with me? And then?) Or, putting it more 
simply for anyone who knows anything about the situation in the Soviet Army at that time: would 
that osobist have paid any attention to an army captain? 

So the osobist continued to lash the defenseless man brutally and drive him along like a beast. 

This picture will remain etched in my mind forever. This, after all, is almost a symbol of the 
Archipelago. It ought to be on the jacket of this book. 

The Vlasov men had a presentiment of all this; they knew it ahead of time; nevertheless, on the left 
sleeve of their German uniforms they sewed the shield with the white-blue -red edging, the field of 
St. Andrew, and the letters "ROA." 

[These letters became even better known, although, as before, there was still no real Russian 
Liberation Army. The units were all scattered and kept subordinate to German orders, and the 
Vlasov generals had nothing to do but play cards in Dahlemdorf, near Berlin. By the middle of 1942, 
Voskoboinikov's brigade, which, after his death, was commanded by Kaminsky, numbered five 
infantry regiments of 2,500 to 3,000 men each, with attached artillery crews, a tank battalion 
consisting of two dozen Soviet tanks, and an artillery battalion with three dozen guns. The 
commanding officers were POW officers, and the rank and file was made up, in considerable part, of 
local Bryansk volunteers. This brigade was under orders to guard the area against partisans. In the 
sum- mer of 1942, the brigade of Gil-Blazhevich was transferred for the same purpose from Poland, 
where it had been notable for its cruelty toward Poles and Jews, to the area near Mogilev. At the 
beginning of 1943, its command refused to acknowledge Vlasov's authority, demanding that he 
explain why, in his stated program, there was no reference to the "struggle against world Jewry and 
Jew-loving commissars." These were the very men — called the Rodionovites, because Gil had 
changed his name to Rodionov — who in August, 1943, when Hitler's approaching defeat became 
apparent, changed their black flag with a silver skull to a red flag, and proclaimed Soviet authority 
and a large "partisan region" in the northeast comer of Byelorussia. 

At that time, Soviet newspapers began to write about the "partisan region," but without explaining its 
origins. Later on, all surviving Rodionovites were imprisoned. And whom did the Germans 
immediately throw in against the Rodionovites? The Kaminsky brigade! That was in May, 1944, and 
they also threw in thirteen of their own divisions in an effort to liquidate the "partisan region." That 
was the extent to which Germans understood all those tricolor cockades, St. George, and the field of 
St. Andrew. The Russian and German languages were mutually untranslatable, inexpressible, 
uncorrelatable. Still worse: in October, 1944, the Germans threw in Kaminsky's brigade — with its 
Moslem units — to suppress the Warsaw uprising. While one group of Russians sat traitorously 
dozing beyond the Vistula, watching the death of Warsaw through their binoculars, other Russians 



crushed the uprising! Hadn't the Poles had enough Russian villainy to bear in the nineteenth century 
with- out having to endure more of it in the twentieth? For that matter, was that the last of it? 
Perhaps more is still to come. The career of the Osintorf Battalion was apparently more 
straightforward. This consisted of about six hundred soldiers and two hundred officers, with an 
emigre command, I. K. Sakharov and Lamsdorf, Russian uniforms, and a white -blue-red flag; it was 
thrown in near Pskov. Then, reinforced to regimental strength, it was readied for a para- chute drop 
on the line of Vologda- Archangel, the idea being to make use of the nest of concentration camps in 
that area. Throughout 1943, Igor Sakharov managed to prevent his unit from being sent against the 
partisans. But then he was replaced and the battalion was first disarmed and imprisoned in a camp 
and then sent off to the Western Front. Then, in the fall of 1943, the Germans decided to send the 
Russian cannon fodder to the Atlantic Wall, and against the French and ItaUan Resistance, having 
lost, forgotten, and not even tried to recall its original purpose. Those among the Vlasov men who 
had managed to retain some kind of political rationality or hope thereupon lost both.] 

The inhabitants of the occupied areas held them in contempt as German hire- lings. So did the 
Germans, because of their Russian blood. Their pitiful little newspapers were worked over with a 
German cen- sor's broadsword: Greater Germany and the Fiihrer. And the Vlasov men had one way 
out of all that — to fight to the death, and, when they were not fighting, to down vodka and more 
vodka. Foredoomed — that was their existence during all their years of war and alien lands, and there 
was no salvation for them from any direction. 

Hitler and those around him, even when they were retreating on every front and were staring their 
own destruction in the face, could still not overcome their intense distrust of wholly separate Russian 
units; they could not bring themselves to organize divi- sions that were entirely Russian, to allow 
even the shadow of a Russia that was not totally subject to them. Only in the crack of the final 
debacle, in November, 1944, was a belated theatrical production at last permitted in Prague: the 
creation of a "Com- mittee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia," combining all the different 
national groups, and a manifesto, which, like everything that had preceded it, was neither fish nor 
fowl, since the concept of a Russia independent of Germany and Nazism was still not tolerated. 
Vlasov became chairman of the commit- tee. And only in the fall of 1944 did they begin to form 
Vlasov divisions that were exclusively Russian. 

[They were: the 1st, based on "the Kaminsky brigade," under S. K. Bunyachenko; the 2nd, under 
Zverev (former military commandant of Khar- kov); half the 3rd; segments of the 4th; and Maltsev's 
air force detachment. Only four divisions were authorized.] 

Probably the wise Ger- man political leaders had concluded that at this point the Russian workers in 
Germany (the "ostovtsy") would rush to take up arms. But the Red Army was already on the Vistula 
and the Danube. And ironically, as though to confirm the farsightedness of the very nearsighted 
Germans, those Vlasov divisions, in their first and last independent action, dealt a blow — to the 
Germans themselves. In the general disaster, Vlasov gathered up his two and a half divisions near 
Prague at the end of April, without coordinating his action with the German Supreme Command. It 
became known at this point that SS General Steiner was pre- paring to destroy the Czech capital 
rather than surrender it in- tact. And Vlasov ordered his divisions to the aid of the Czech rebels. And 
at that point, all the hurt, bitterness, and anger against the Germans that had accumulated during 
three cruel and futile years in the breasts of the enslaved Russians was vented in the attack on the 
Germans. They were shoved out of Prague from an unexpected direction. Did all Czechs realize later 
which Russians had saved their city? Our own history is similarly distorted; we claim that Prague 
was saved by Soviet armies, although they couldn't have gotten there in time. 

Then the Vlasov army began to retreat toward Bavaria and the Americans. They were pinning all 

their hopes on the possi- bility of being useful to the Allies; in this way their years of dangling in the 
German noose would finally become meaningful. But the Americans greeted them with a wall of 
armor and forced them to surrender to Soviet hands, as stipulated by the Yalta Conference. In 



Austria that May, Churchill perpetrated the same sort of "act of a loyal ally," but, out of our 
accustomed modesty, we did not publicize it. He turned over to the Soviet command the Cossack 
corps of 90,000 men. 

[This surrender was an act of double-dealing consistent with the spirit of traditional English 
diplomacy. The heart of the matter was that the Cossacks were determined to fight to the death, or to 
cross the ocean, all the way to Paraguay or Indochina if they had to ... anything rather than surrender 
alive. Therefore, the English proposed, first, that the Cossacks give up their arms on the pretext of 
replacing them with standardized weapons. Then the officers — without the enlisted men — were 
summoned to a supposed conference on the future of the army in the city of Judenburg in the English 
occupation zone. But the English had secretly turned the city over to the Soviet armies the night 
before. Forty busloads of officers, all the way from commanders of companies on up to General 
Krasnov himself, crossed a high viaduct and drove straight down into a semicircle of Black Marias, 
next to which stood convoy guards with lists in their hands. The road back was blocked by Soviet 
tanks. The officers didn't even have anything with which to shoot themselves or to stab themselves to 
death, since their weapons had been taken away. They jumped from the viaduct onto the paving 
stones below. Immediately afterward, and just as treacherously, the English turned over the rank- 
and-file soldiers by the train- load — pretending that they were on their way to receive new weapons 
from their commanders. 

In their own countries Roosevelt and Churchill are honored as embodiments of statesmanlike 
wisdom. To us, in our Russian prison conversations, their consistent shortsightedness and stupidity 
stood out as astonishingly obvious. How could they, in their decline from 1941 to 1945, fail to secure 
any guar- antees whatever of the independence of Eastern Europe? How could they give away broad 
regions of Saxony and Thuringia in exchange for the preposterous toy of a four- zone Berlin, their 
own future Achilles' heel? And what was the military or political sense in their surrendering to 
destruction at Stalin's hands hundreds of thousands of armed Soviet citizens determined not to 
surrender? They say it was the price they paid for Stalin's agreeing to enter the war against Japan. 
With the atom bomb already in their hands, they paid Stalin for not refusing to occupy Manchuria, 
for strengthening Mao Tse-tung in China, and for giving Kim II Sung control of half Korea! What 
bankruptcy of political thought! And when, subsequently, the Russians pushed out Mikolajczyk, 
when Benes and Masaryk came to their ends, when Berlin was blockaded, and Buda- pest flamed 
and fell silent, and Korea went up in smoke, and Britain's Con- servatives fled from Suez, could one 
really believe that those among them with the most accurate memories did not at least recall that 
episode of the Cossacks?] 

Along with them, he also handed over many wagonloads of old people, women, and children who 
did not want to return to their native Cossack rivers. This great hero, monuments to whom will in 
time cover all England, ordered that they, too, be surrendered to their deaths. 

In addition to the hurriedly created Vlasov divisions, quite a few Russian subunits went right on 
turning sour in the depths of the German Army, wearing standard German uniforms. They finished 
out the war on various sectors and in different ways. 

I myself fell under Vlasov fire a few days before my arrest. There were Russians in the East Prussian 
"sack" which we had surrounded, and one night at the end of January their unit tried to break through 
our position to the west, without artillery prepa- ration, in silence. There was no firmly delineated 
front in any case, and they penetrated us in depth, catching my sound-locator battery, which was out 
in front, in a pincers. I just barely managed to pull it back by the last remaining road. But then I went 
back for a piece of damaged equipment, and, before dawn, I watched as they suddenly rose from the 
snow where they'd dug in, wearing their winter camouflage cloaks, hurled themselves with a cheer 
on the battery of a 152-millimeter gun battalion at Adlig Schwenkitten, and knocked out twelve 
heavy cannon with hand grenades before they could fire a shot. Pursued by their tracer bullets, our 
last little group ran almost two miles in fresh snow to the bridge across the Passarge River. And there 



they were stopped. 



Soon after that I was arrested. And now, on the eve of the Victory Parade, here we all were sitting 
together on the board bunks of the Butyrki. I took puffs from their cigarettes and they took puffs 
from mine. And paired with one or another of them, I used to carry out the six-bucket tin latrine 
barrel. 

Many of the Vlasov men, like the "spies for hire," were young, bom, say, between 1915 and 1922, 
that same "young and unknown tribe" which bustling-bustling Lunacharsky had hurried to greet in 
the name of Pushkin. Most of them got into Vlasov military units through that same blind chance 
which led their comrades in a neighboring camp to get into the spy thing — it all depended on which 
recruiter had gone where. 

The recruiters had explained to them jeeringly — or rather, it would have been jeering if it hadn't been 
the truth: "Stalin has renounced you! Stalin doesn't give a damn about you!" 

Soviet law had outlawed them even before they outlawed themselves. 

So they signed up — some of them simply to get out of a death camp, others with the hope of going 
over to the partisans. (And some of them did! And fought side by side with the partisans! But 
according to Stalin's rules that didn't soften their sentences in the least.) However, in the case of 
some, the shame of 1941, that stunning defeat after long, long years of braggadocio, ate at their 
hearts. Some believed that the primary guilt for those in- human POW camps belonged to Stalin. 
They, too, wanted the chance to speak out about themselves and their awful experi- ence: to affirm 
that they, too, were particles of Russia, and wanted to influence Russia's future, and not to be the 
puppets of other people's mistakes. 

But fate played them an even bitterer trick, and they became more abject pawns than before. The 
Germans, in their shallow stupidity and self-importance, allowed them only to die for the German 
Reich, but denied them the right to plan an independent destiny for Russia. 

And the Allies were two thousand versts away — and anyway, what kind of allies would they indeed 
turn out to be? 

The term "Vlasovite" in our country has the same force as the word "sewage." We feel we are 
dirtying our mouths merely by pronouncing it, and therefore no one dares utter a sentence with 
"Vlasovite" as its subject. 

But that is no way to write history. Now, a quarter of a cen- tury later, when most of them have 
perished in camps and those who have survived are living out their lives in the Far North, I would 
like to issue a reminder, through these pages, that this was a phenomenon totally unheard of in all 
world history: that several hundred thousand young men, aged twenty to thirty, took up arms against 
their Fatherland as allies of its most evil enemy. 

[This, in fact, is the number of Soviet citizens who were in the Wehr- macht — in pre- Vlasov and 
Vlasov formations, and in the Cossack, Moslem, Baltic, and Ukrainian units and detachments.] 

Perhaps there is something to ponder here: Who was more to blame, those youths or the gray 
Fatherland? One cannot explain this treason biologically. It has to have had a social cause. 

Because, as the old proverb says: Well-fed horses don't ram- page. 

Then picture to yourself a field in which starved, neglected, crazed horses are rampaging back and 
forth. 



That same spring many Russian emigres were also in those cells. 

It was very like a dream: the resurrection of buried history. The weighty tomes on the Civil War had 
long since been com- pleted and their covers shut tight. The causes for which people fought in it had 
been decided. The chronology of its events had been set down in textbooks. The leaders of the White 
movement were, it appeared, no longer our contemporaries on earth but mere ghosts of a past that 
had melted away. The Russian emigres had been more cruelly dispersed than the tribes of Israel. 
And, in our Soviet imagination, if they were still dragging out their lives somewhere, it was as 
pianists in stinking little restaurants, as lackeys, laundresses, beggars, morphine and cocaine addicts, 
and virtual corpses. Right up to 1941, when the war came, it would have been impossible to find out 
from any hints in our newspapers, our lofty literature, our criticism of the arts (nor did our own well- 
fed masters of art and literature help us find out) that Russia Abroad was a great spiritual world, that 
in it Russian philosophy was living and developing; that out there were philosophers like Bulgakov, 
Berdyayev, and Lossky; that Russian art had enchanted the world; that Rachmaninoff, Chal- iapin, 
Benois, Diaghilev, Pavlova, and the Don Cossack Chorus of Jaroff were out there; that profound 
studies of Dostoyevsky were being undertaken (at a time when he was anathema in the Soviet 
Union) ; that the incredible writer Nabokov-Sirin also existed out there; that Bunin himself was still 
alive and had been writing for all these twenty years; that journals of the arts were being published; 
that theatrical works were being produced; that Russians from the same areas of Russia came 
together in groups where their mother tongue could be heard; and that emigre men had not given up 
marrying emigre women, who in turn presented them with children, which meant young people our 
own age. 

The picture of emigration presented in our country was so falsified that if one had conducted a mass 
survey to ask which side the Russian emigres were on in the Spanish Civil War, or else, perhaps, 
what side they were on in the Second World War, with one voice everyone would have replied: For 
Franco! For Hitler! Even now people in our country do not know that many more White emigres 
fought on the Republican side in Spain. That both the Vlasov divisions and the Cossack corps of von 
Pannwitz (the "Krasnov" corps) were made up of Soviet citizens and not of emigres. The emigres did 
not support Hitler. They ostracized Merezhkovsky and Gippius, who took Hitler's part, leaving them 
to alienated loneliness. There was a joke — except it wasn't a joke — to the effect that Denikin wanted 
to fight for the Soviet Union against Hitler, and that at one time Stalin planned to arrange his return 
to the Motherland, not for military reasons, obviously, but as a symbol of national unity. During the 
German occupation of France, a horde of Russian emigres, young and old, joined the Resistance. 
And after the liberation of Paris they swarmed to the Soviet Embassy to apply for per- mission to 
return to the Motherland. No matter what kind of Russia it was — it was still Russia! That was their 
slogan, and that is how they proved they had not been lying previously about their love for her. 
(Imprisoned in 1945 and 1946, they were almost happy that these prison bars and these jailers were 
their own, Russian. And they observed with surprise the Soviet boys scratching their heads and 
saying: "Why the hell did we come back? Wasn't there room enough for us in Europe?") 

But, given that Stalinist logic which said that every Soviet person who had lived abroad had to be 
imprisoned in camp, how could the emigres possibly escape the same lot? In the Balkans, Central 
Europe, Harbin, they were arrested as soon as the Soviet armies arrived. They were arrested in their 
apartments and on the street, just like Soviet citizens. For a while State Security arrested only men, 
and not all of them, only those who had in one or another way revealed a political bias. Later on, 
their families were transported to exile in Russia, but some were left where they were in Bulgaria 
and Czechoslovakia. In France they were welcomed into Soviet citizenship with honors and flowers 
and sent back to the Motherland in comfort; and only when they got to the U.S.S.R. were they raked 
in. Things dragged out longer for the Shanghai emigres. In 1945 Russian hands didn't reach that far. 
But a plenipotentiary from the Soviet government went to Shanghai and announced a decree of the 
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet extending forgiveness to all emigres. Well, now, how could one 
refuse to believe that? The government cer- tainly couldn't lie! Whether or not there actually was 
such a decree, it did not, in any case, tie the hands of the Organs. The Shanghai Russians expressed 



their delight. They were told they could take with them as many possessions as they wanted and 
whatever they wanted. They went home with automobiles — the country could put them to good use. 
They were told they could settle wherever they wanted to in the Soviet Union and, of course, work at 
any profession or trade. They were transported from Shanghai in steamships. The fate of the 
passengers varied. On some of the ships, for some reason, they were given no food at all. They also 
suffered various fates after reaching the port of Nakhodka (which was, incidentally, one of the main 
transit centers of Gulag). Almost all of them were loaded into freight cars, like prisoners, except that 
they had, as yet, no strict convoy, and there were no police dogs. Some of them were actually de- 
livered to inhabited places, to cities, and allowed to live there for two or three years. Others were 
delivered in trainloads straight to their camps and were dumped out somewhere off a high 
embankment into the forest beyond the Volga, together with their white pianos and their jardinieres. 
In 1948-1949, the former Far Eastern emigres who had until then managed to stay out of camps were 
scraped up to the last man. 

As a nine-year-old boy I had read the small dark-blue books of V. V. Shulgin with more interest than 
I had read Jules Verne. At that time they were sold openly in our book stalls. His was a voice from a 
world that had disappeared with such finality that not even the most extravagant fantasy could have 
projected that invisible point in the soundless corridors of the Big Lub- yanka where his steps would 
intersect my own before twenty years had passed. True, I would not meet the man himself until an- 
other twenty years had gone by. But I had time to study attentively many emigres, old and young, in 
the spring of 1945. 

I underwent a medical examination with Captain Borshch and Colonel Mariyushkin. And the pitiful 
sight of their naked, wrinkled, dark-yellow bodies, not bodies any longer but mum- mies, has always 
remained before my eyes. They were arrested five minutes this side of the grave, so to speak, and 
brought to Moscow from several thousand miles away, and there in Mos- cow, in 1945, an 
interrogation was proceeding in the most serious way on ... their struggle against Soviet power in 
1919! 

We have become so used to the piling up of injustices during interrogation and trial that we have 
ceased drawing any dis- tinctions of degree between them. This captain and this colonel were veteran 
officers of the Tsar's Russian Army. They had both been over forty, and they had both served in the 
army for twenty years, when the telegraph brought them news that the Tsar had been overthrown in 
Petrograd. For twenty years they had served the Tsar according to their oath. And now, against their 
wills — for all we know, possibly muttering "Beat it! Scram!" to themselves — they swore loyalty to 
the Provisional Govern- ment. After that, no one asked them to swear any more oaths because the 
whole army fell apart. They didn't like the new scheme of things, wherein soldiers tore shoulder 
boards off offi- cers and killed them, and it was natural for them to join other officers to fight against 
it. And it was natural for the Red Army to fight against them and push them into the sea. But in a 
coun- try in which at least the rudiments of jurisprudence exist, what basis was there for putting them 
on trial, and a quarter of a cen- tury later at that? (They had lived as private persons all that time . . . 
Mariyushkin up to the very moment of his arrest. Borshch, to be sure, had turned up in a Cossack 
wagon train in Austria, but in a transport, with the old men and women, not in an armed unit.) 

However, in 1945, in the very center of Soviet jurisdiction, they were charged with: actions directed 
toward the overthrow of the government of the workers' and peasants' Soviets; armed incursion into 
Soviet territory, in other words, not having im- mediately left Russia when Petrograd was declared 
Soviet; aiding the international bourgeoisie (which they had never seen even in their dreams) ; 
serving counterrevolutionary governments (i.e., their own generals, to whom they had been 
subordinate all their lives). And all these sections — Nos. 1, 2, 4, 13 — of Article 58 were included in a 
Criminal Code adopted in 1926, that is, six to seven years after the end of the Civil War. This was a 
classic and unconscionable example of the ex post facto application of a law! In addition, Article 2 of 
the Code specified that it applied only to citizens taken into custody on the territory of the Russian 
Republic. But State Security's strong right arm had grabbed people who were in no wise Soviet 



citizens from all the countries of Europe and Asia. 

[On this basis no single African leader has any assurance that we will not, ten years from now, 
promulgate a law in accordance with which we will put him on trial for what he does today. Yes. 
The Chinese, in fact, will pro- mulgate precisely such laws — just give them the chance to reach out 
that far.] 

And we won't even bring up the question of statutes of limitations. This question was provided for 
very flexibly — no statutes of limitations applied to Article 58. {"Why stir up the past indeed?") Such 
statutes are invoked only in the case of our home-grown executioners, who have destroyed many, 
many more of their compatriots than did the whole Civil War. 

Mariyushkin, at least, remembered everything clearly. He told us the details of being evacuated from 
Novorossisk. But Borshch had already descended into second childhood and prattled on and on 
about celebrating Easter in the Lubyanka: he had eaten only half his bread ration during Palm 
Sunday week and Holy Week and had set the rest of it aside, gradually replacing the stale pieces 
with fresh ones. Thus he had accumulated seven full rations when it came time to break the Lenten 
fast — and he had "feasted" for the three days of Easter. 

I do not know what kind of White Guards they were in the Civil War, either of them, whether they 
were among the ex- ceptional few who hung every tenth worker without trial and whipped the 
peasants, or whether they were the other kind, the soldierly majority. The fact that they were being 
interrogated and sentenced in Moscow was no proof of anything nor a matter of any consequence. 
But if, from that time on, they had lived for a quarter of a century, not as retired officers, on pensions 
and with honor, but as homeless exiles, then how could anyone point to any moral basis for trying 
them? That is the kind of dialectic Anatole France mastered, but which we cannot seem to grasp. 
According to Anatole France, by the time it's today, yesterday's martyr is already in the wrong — in 
fact, from the first minute the red shirt covered his body. And vice versa. But our version is: If they 
rode me for one short year, when I had just outgrown being a foal, then I am called a riding horse all 
my life, even though I have long since been used only as a cab horse. 

Colonel Konstantin Konstantinovich Yasevich was very dif- ferent from these helpless emigre 
mummies. For him, clearly, the end of the Civil War had not ended the struggle against Bolshevism. 
As to how he continued to struggle — where and with what — he did not enlighten me. But the sense 
that he was still in the service remained with him in the cell itself. In the midst of all the chaotic 
concepts, the blurred and broken lines of vision, in most of our heads, he had, evidently, a clear and 
exact view of everything around him; as a result of this reasoned point of view on life, his body, too, 
exhibited a steady strength, re- siliency, and activity. He was certainly not less than sixty. His head 
was totally bald, without a single hair. He had already survived his interrogation and was awaiting 
his sentence, like the rest of us. He could expect no help from anywhere, of course. But he kept his 
young, even rosy skin. Among all of us in the cell, he alone did exercises every morning and washed 
himself at the faucet. The rest of us were trying not to squander the calories in our prison ration. He 
put his time to use, and whenever an aisle opened up between the rows of board bunks, he paced 
those fifteen to twenty feet with a precise stride and a precise profile, crossing his arms over his 
chest and staring through the walls with clear young eyes. 

And the difference between us and him was that we were all astonished at what was happening to us, 
while nothing around him contradicted his expectations, and precisely for that reason he was 
absolutely alone in the cell. 

A year later, I was able to appraise his conduct in prison. Once again I was in the Butyrki, and in one 
of those seventy cells I met some young codefendants of Yasevich who had al- ready been sentenced 
to ten and fifteen years. The sentences given everyone in their group were typed out on cigarette 
paper, and for some reason they had it in their possession. Yasevich was first on the list, and his 



sentence was : to be shot. So that was what he saw — what he foresaw — through the wall with his 
still- young eyes as he paced back and forth from the table to the door! But his unimpaired 
consciousness of the correctness of his path in life lent him extraordinary strength. 

Among the emigres was one my own age, Igor Tronko. We became friends. Both of us were weak, 
dried out; our skin was grayish- yellow on our bones. (Why had we collapsed to such an extent? I 
think the main cause was spiritual confusion.) Both of us were thin and on the tall side, and we were 
shaken by the gusts of summer wind in the Butyrki courtyards. We always walked side by side, with 
the careful steps of old men, and dis- cussed the parallels in our lives. He had been born in South 
Russia the same year as I. We were still nursing babes when fate stuck her hand into her well-worn 
purse and drew out a short straw for me and a long one for him. So it was that he rolled off across the 
sea, even though his White Guard father was just a rank-and-file, unpropertied telegrapher. 

I found it interesting in the extreme to picture through his life all those compatriots of my generation 
who had landed outside Russia. They had grown up under good family supervision and in very 
modest, even meager, circumstances. They were all very well brought up and, within the range of 
existing possibilities, well educated. They grew up without knowing fear or repression, though the 
White organizations maintained a certain yoke of authority over them until they themselves grew 
strong. They grew up in such a way that the sins to which all European youth was subject in that 
period — a high crime rate, a frivolous atti- tude toward life, thoughtlessness, dissipation — did not 
touch them. That was because they grew up, so to speak, in the shadow of the indelible misfortune 
which had befallen their families. Whatever country they grew up in, they looked on Russia alone as 
their Motherland. Their spiritual upbringing was based on Russian literature, all the more beloved 
because to them it was the beginning and end of their Motherland, because for them their 
Motherland did not exist as a primary geographi- cal and physical fact. The contemporary printed 
word was much more generally accessible to them than to us, but they received Soviet books in 
conspicuously small quantities. And they felt this lack all the more keenly; it seemed to them chiefly 
respon- sible for their inability to understand what was most important, highest, and most beautiful 
in Soviet Russia; and that the books they did receive presented a distortion, a lie; were incomplete. 

The picture they had of our real life was very, very faint, but their longing for their Motherland was 
such that if we had called on them in 1941 they would all have joined the Red Army, and it would 
have been even sweeter for them to die than to survive. These young people from twenty-five to 
twenty-seven already represented and firmly defended several points of view, in defi- nite conflict 
with the opinions of the old generals and political leaders. Thus Igor's group was called the 
"nepredreshentsy" — the "non-prejudgers": they declared that anyone who had not shared with the 
Motherland the whole, complex burden of the past decades had no right to decide anything about the 
future of Russia, nor even to presuppose anything, but should simply go and lend his strength to 
whatever the people might decide. 

We would often lie beside one another on the wooden bunks. I tried to understand his world as best I 
could, and our encounter revealed to me a concept confirmed by later encounters — that the outflow 
from Russia of a significant part of her spiritual forces, which occurred in the Civil War, had 
deprived us of a great and important stream of Russian culture. Everyone who really loves that 
culture will strive for the reunion of both streams, the one at home and the tributary abroad. Only 
then will our culture attain wholeness. Only then will it reveal its capacity for benign development. 

And I dream of living until that day. 

A human being is weak, weak. In the end, that spring, even the most stubborn of us wanted 
forgiveness and were ready to give up a lot for just a little bit more life. An anecdote was current 
among us: "What is your last word, accused?" "I beg you to send me wherever you please, just as 
long as it is under the Soviet government and the sun is there!" No one was threatening to deprive us 
of the Soviet government, of course: just of the sun. No one wanted to be sent beyond the Arctic 



Circle, to scurvy and malnutrition. For some reason, a legend about the Altai region in particular 
flourished in the cells. Those rare persons who had been there at one time or another, but especially 
those who had never been there, wove melodious dreams about the wonderful country of the Altai 
for their cellmates! It had the vast expanses of Siberia and a mild climate. Rivers of honey flowing 
between banks of wheat. The steppe and mountains. Herds of sheep, flocks of wildfowl, shoals of 
fish. Populous, rich villages. 

[Does not the prisoner's dream of the Altai simply continue the old peasant dream about it? The so- 
called lands of His Majesty's Cabinet were in the Altai, and because of this the area was closed to 
colonization much longer than the rest of Siberia. But it was there that the peasants wanted most of 
all to settle — and where they actually settled. Is it not from this that the enduring legend has arisen?] 

Oh, if only we could find a hiding place in that quiet! If only we could listen to the pure resounding 
of the cock crow in the unpolluted air! Or stroke the good, serious face of a horse! Curses on you, all 
you great problems! Let someone else beat his head against you, someone more stupid. Oh, just to 
rest there from the interrogator's mother oaths and the monotonous un- winding of your whole Ufe, 
from the crash of the prison locks, from the suffocating stuffiness of the cell. Only one life is allotted 
us, one small, short life! And we had been criminal enough to push ours in front of somebody's 
machine guns, or drag it with us, still unsullied, into the dirty rubbish heap of politics. There, in the 
Altai, it appeared, one could live in the lowest, darkest hut on the edge of the village, next to the 
forest. And one could go into the woods, not for brushwood and not for mushrooms, but just to go, 
for no reason, and hug two tree trunks: Dear ones, you're all I need. 

And the spring itself sounded a summons to mercy. It was the spring that marked the ending of such 
an enormous war! We saw that millions of us prisoners were flowing past and knew that millions 
more would greet us in the camps. It just couldn't be that so many people were to remain in prison 
after the greatest victory in the world! It was just to frighten us that they were holding us for the time 
being: so that we might remember and take heed. Of course, there would soon be a total amnesty and 
all of us would be released. Someone even swore that he had read in a newspaper that Stalin, 
replying to some American correspondent (whose name I cannot remember), said that after the war 
there would be an amnesty the like of which the world had never seen. And one of the interrogators 
had actually said to someone else that there would soon be a general amnesty. (These rumors were a 
help to the interrogators because they weakened the prisoners' will: The hell with him, let's sign — it 
isn't going to be for long anyway.) 

But... for mercy one must have wisdom. This has been a truth throughout our history and will remain 
one for a long time to come. 

We did not heed the few sober minds among us who croaked out that never, in a whole quarter- 
century, had there been an amnesty for political prisoners — and that there never would be one. Some 
cell expert among the stool pigeons leaped up with an answer: "Yes, there was! In 1927. For the 
tenth anniversary of the Revolution. All the prisons were emptied, and white flags were flown on all 
of them." This astonishing vision of white flags on the prisons — why white? — was particularly 
striking. 

[Vyshinsky, Ot Tyurem k Vospitatelnym Uchrezhdeniyam, p. 396, presents the figures. In the 1927 
amnesty, 7.3 percent of the prisoners were amnestied. This is a credible figure. Pretty poor for a 
tenth anniversary. Among the political prisoners, women with children were freed and those who had 
only a few months left to serve. In the Verkhne-Uralsk Prison Isolator, for example, twelve out of the 
two hundred prisoners there were released. But, in the middle of it, they regretted even this wretched 
amnesty and began to block it: they delayed some releases, and some people who were freed were 
given a "minus" restriction instead of full freedom to go where they pleased.] 

We brushed aside those wise individuals among us who explained that millions of us were 



imprisoned precisely because the war had ended. We were no longer needed at the front. We were 
danger- ous in the rear. And, were it not for us, not one brick would ever get laid at the remote 
construction projects. We were too self- absorbed even to grasp Stalin's simple economic 
calculations — let alone his malice. Just who this year, after being demobilized, would want to leave 
his family and home and go off to the Kolyma, to Vorkuta, to Siberia, where there were neither roads 
nor houses? It was virtually the job of the State Planning Com- mission to assign to the MVD the 
number of workers required for plan fulfillment and thus the number to be arrested. An amnesty, a 
broad and generous amnesty, was what we waited for and thirsted for! Somebody said that in 
England prisoners were amnestied on the anniversary of the coronation, in other words, every year. 
Many politicals had been amnestied on the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanovs, in 1912. 
Could it really be possible that now, after we had won a victory which would resound throughout our 
entire era and even longer, the Stalin government would be petty and vengeful and would hang onto 
its resentment of every stumble and slip of each of its minuscule subjects? 

There is a simple truth which one can learn only through suffer- ing: in war not victories are blessed 
but defeats. Governments need victories and the people need defeats. Victory gives rise to the desire 
for more victories. But after a defeat it is freedom that men desire — and usually attain. A people 
needs defeat just as an individual needs suffering and misfortune: they compel the deepening of the 
inner life and generate a spiritual upsurge. 

The Poltava victory was a great misfortune for Russia: it resulted in two centuries of great strain and 
stress, ruin, the ab- sence of freedom — and war and war again. The Poltava victory spelled salvation 
for the Swedes. Having lost the appetite for war, the Swedes became the most prosperous and the 
freest people in Europe. 

[Perhaps, only in the twentieth century, if one is to believe the stories one hears, has their stagnating 
well-being led to moral indigestion.] 

We are so used to taking pride in our victory over Napoleon that we leave out of account the fact that 
because of it the eman- cipation of the serfs did not take place a half-century sooner. Because of it, 
the strengthened monarchy destroyed the Decem- brists. (The French occupation was never a reality 
for Russia.) But the Crimean War, and the Japanese War, and our war with Germany in the First 
World War — all those defeats brought us freedom and revolution. 

We believed in amnesty that spring, we weren't being at all original in this. Talking with old 
prisoners, one gradually dis- covers that this thirst for mercy and this faith in mercy is never absent 
within gray prison walls. For decades and decades, wave after wave of prisoners has thirsted for and 
believed in either an amnesty, or a new Code, or a general review of cases. And the rumors about 
these things have always been supported by the Organs with skilled caution. The prisoner's 
imagination sees the ardently awaited arrival of the angel of liberation in just about anything: the 
next anniversary of the October Revolution, Len- in's anniversaries. Victory Day, Red Army Day, 
Paris Commune Day, every new session of the AU-Russian Central Executive Committee — the 
VTsIK — the end of every Five- Year Plan, every Plenary Session of the Supreme Court! And the 
wilder the arrests, the more Homeric and mind-boggling the scale of the waves of prisoners, the 
more they inspired not sober-mindedness but faith in amnesty! 

All sources of light can to some degree be compared with the Sun. And the Sun cannot be compared 
with anything. So it is that all the expectations in the world can be compared with the expectation of 
amnesty, but the expectation of amnesty cannot be compared with anything else. 

In the spring of 1945, every newcomer to the cell was asked first of all what he had heard about an 
amnesty. And if two or three prisoners were taken from their cells with their things, the cell experts 
immediately compared cases and drew the conclusion that theirs were the least serious cases and 
they had clearly been taken out to be released. It had begun! In the toilet and in the baths — the 



prisoners' post offices — our "activists" looked every- where for signs and graffiti about the amnesty. 
And one day at the beginning of July, in the famous lavender vestibule of the Butyrki baths, we read 
the enormous prophecy written in soap on a glazed lavender slab far higher than a man's head — 
which meant that one man had stood on another's shoulders in order to write it in a place where it 
would take longer to erase: 

"Hurrah!! Amnesty on July 17!" 

[Indeed, the bastards were wrong by only one digit! For more details on the great Stalin amnesty of 
July 7, 1945, see Part III, Chapter 6.] 

What a celebration went on! ("After all, if they hadn't known for sure, they wouldn't have written 
it!") Everything that beat, pulsed, circulated in the body came to a stop beneath the wave of 
happiness, the expectation that the doors were about to swing open. 

But . . . for mercy one must have wisdom. 

In the middle of July, the corridor jailer sent one old man from our cell to wash down the toilet, and 
while they were there eye to eye — for he wouldn't have dared in the presence of witnesses — he 
looked sympathetically at the prisoner's gray head and asked: "What's your article, father?" "Fifty- 
eight!" The old man lit up. At home three generations were mourning his arrest. "You're not 
included," sighed the jailer. Nonsense, we decided in the cell: just an illiterate jailer. 

There was also a young man from Kiev in the cell, Valentin. I can't remember his family name. He 
had big eyes that were beautiful in a feminine way, and he was terrified by the interroga- tion. There 
is no doubt that he had the gift of precognition — per- haps only in his then current state of 
excitement. More than once, he went around the cell in the morning and pointed: Today they are 
going to come for you and you. I saw it in my dream. And they came and got them ... the very 
individuals he had pointed out. One might add that a prisoner's heart is so inclined toward mysticism 
that he accepts precognition almost without surprise. 

On July 27 Valentin came up to me: "Aleksandr! Today it is our turn." And he told me a dream that 
had all the characteristics of prison dreams: a bridge across a muddy stream, a cross. I began to get 
my things together. And it was not for nothing either. He and I were summoned after morning tea. 
Our cellmates saw us off with noisy good wishes, and many of them assured us we were going off to 
freedom. They had figured it out by compar- ing our less serious cases. 

Perhaps you honestly don't believe it. Perhaps you won't allow yourself to believe. You can try to 
brush it aside with jokes. But flaming pincers, hotter than anything else on earth, suddenly close 
around your heart. They just do. Suppose it's true? 

They assembled twenty of us from various cells and took us to the baths first. Before every big 
change in his life, the prisoner has first of all to take a bath. We had time enough there, an hour and a 
half, to exchange our hunches and ideas. At that point, all steamed up, our skins tender, we were 
taken through the httle emerald park in the Butyrki's interior courtyard, where the birds sang 
deafeningly, although they were probably only sparrows, and the green of the trees seemed 
unbearably bright to eyes no longer used to it. Never had my eyes seen the green of the leaves with 
such intensity as they did that spring! And never in my life had I seen anything closer to God's 
paradise than that little Butyrki park, which never took more than thirty seconds to cross on the 
asphalt path. 

[Many years later, this time as a tourist, I saw another, similar park, except that it was even smaller, 
in the Trubetskoi bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress in Leningrad. The other tourists exclaimed 
over the darkness of the corridors and cells, but I kept thinking to myself that with such a park to 



walk in, the prisoners of the Trubetskoi bastion were not lost men. Wie were taken out to walk only in 
deathly cell-Uke stone enclosures.] 

They took us to the Butyrki station — a very well-chosen nick- name for that reception and dispatch 
point, especially because its main hall was really like a good railroad station. They pushed us into a 
large, spacious box. It was half-dark inside and the air was clean and fresh, since its one and only 
little window was very high up and had no "muzzle." And it opened on that same sunny little park, 
and through the transom the birds' twitter deafened us, and in the opening a little bright-green twig 
hung, promising us all freedom and home. (We had never been imprisoned in such a good box — and 
that couldn't be a matter of chance! ) 

And we were all cases for the OSO's — the Special Boards at- tached to the GPU-NKVD. And it 
turned out that each of us had been imprisoned for nothing much. 

No one touched us for three hours. No one opened the doors. We paced up and down the box and, 
finally, tired out, we sat down on the slab benches. And the little twig kept bobbing and bobbing 
outside the opening, and the sparrows screamed as if they were possessed. 

Suddenly the door crashed open, and one of us was summoned, a quiet bookkeeper, thirty-five years 
old. He went out. The door was locked. We started running about our box even more agi- tatedly 
than before. We were on hot coals. 

Once more the crash of the door. They called another one out and readmitted the first. We rushed to 
him. But he was not the same man! The life had gone out of his face. His wide-open eyes were 
unseeing. His movements were uncertain as he stum- bled across the smooth floor of the box. Was 
he in a state of shock? Had they swatted him with an ironing board? 

"Well? Well?" we asked him, with sinking hearts. (If he had not in fact just gotten up from the 
electric chair, he must at the very least have been given a death sentence. ) And in the voice of one 
reporting the end of the universe, the bookkeeper managed to blurt out: 

"Five . . . years!" 

And once more the door crashed. That was how quickly they returned, as if they were only being 
taken to the toilet to urinate. The second man returned, all aglow. Evidently he was being re- leased. 

"Well, well, come on?" We swarmed around him, our hopes rising again. He waved his hand, 
choking with laughter. 

"Fifteen years!" 

It was just too absurd to be believed. 

Chapter 7 

In the Engine Room 

The box adjacent to the so-called Butyrki "station" was the famow?, frisking box, where new arrivals 
were searched. It had space enough for five or six jailers to process up to twenty zeks in one batch. 
Now, however, it was empty and the rough-hewn search tables had nothing on them. Over at one 
side of the room, seated behind a small nondescript table beneath a small lamp, was a neat, black- 
haired NKVD major. Patient boredom was what his face chiefly revealed. The intervals during 
which the zeks were brought in and led out one by one were a waste of his time. Their signatures 
could have been collected much, much faster. 



He indicated that I was to sit down on the stool opposite him, on the other side of his table. He asked 
my name. To the right and left of the inkwell lay two piles of white papers the size of a half-sheet of 
typewriter paper, all looking much the same. In format they were just like the fuel requisitions 
handed out in apartment-house management offices, or warrants in official institutions for purchase 
of office supplies. Leafing through the pile on the right, the major found the paper which referred to 
me. He pulled it out and read it aloud to me in a bored patter. (I understood I had been sentenced to 
eight years.) Immediately, he began to write a statement on the back of it, with a fountain pen, to the 
effect that the text had been read to me on the particular date. 

My heart didn't give an extra half -beat — it was all so everyday and routine. Could this really be my 
sentence — the turning point in my life? I would have liked to feel nervous, to experience this 
moment to the full, but I just couldn't. And the major had already pushed the sheet over to me, the 
blank side facing up. And a schoolchild's seven-kopeck pen, with a bad point that had lint on it from 
the inkwell, lay there in front of me. 

"No, I have to read it myself." 

"Do you really think I would deceive you?" the major objected lazily. "Well, go ahead, read it." 

Unwillingly, he let the paper out of his hand. I turned it over and began to look through it with 
deliberate slowness, not just word by word but letter by letter. It had been typed, but what I had in 
front of me was not the original but a carbon: 

EXTRACT 

from a decree of the OSO of the NKVD of the U.S.S.R. 
of July?, 1945, No. . 

[ They had met to sentence me on the very day of the amnesty. The work must go on. . . .] 

All of this was underscored with a dotted line and the sheet was vertically divided with a dotted line: 



Copy verified. Secretary 

Was I really just supposed to sign and leave in silence? I looked at the major — to see whether he 
intended to say something to me, whether he might not provide some clarification. No, he had no 
such intention. He had already nodded to the jailer at the door to get the next prisoner ready. 

To give the moment at least a little importance, I asked him, with a tragic expression: "But, really, 
this is terrible! Eight years! What for?" 

And I could hear how false my own words sounded. Neither he nor I detected anything terrible. 

"Right there." The major showed me once again where to sign. I signed. I could simply not think of 
anything else to do. 



Decreed: 



Case heard: 

Accusation of so-and-so 
(name, year of birth, 
place of birth) 



To designate for so-and-so (name) 
for anti-Soviet propaganda, and for 
an attempt to create an anti- Soviet 
organization, 8 (eight) years in 



corrective labor camps. 



"In that case, allow me to write an appeal right here. After all, the sentence is unjust." 

"As provided by regulations," the major assented with a nod, placing my sheet of paper on the left- 
hand pile. 

"Let's move along," commanded the jailer. 
And I moved along. 

(I had not really shown much initiative. Georgi Tenno, who, to be sure, had been handed a paper 
worth twenty-five years, answered: "After all, this is a life sentence. In olden times they used to beat 
the drums and assemble a crowd when a person was given a life sentence. And here it's like being on 
a list for a soap ration — twenty-five years and run along!" 

Arnold Rappoport took the pen and wrote on the back of the verdict: "I protest categorically this 
terroristic, illegal sentence and demand immediate release." The officer who had handed it to him 
had at first waited patiently, but when he read what Rappoport had written, he was enraged and tore 
up the paper with the note on it. So what! The term remained in force anyway. This was just a copy. 

Vera Komeyeva was expecting fifteen years and she saw with delight that there was a typo on the 
official sheet — it read only//ve. She laughed her luminous laugh and hurried to sign before they took 
it back. The officer looked at her dubiously: "Do you really understand what I read to you?" "Yes, 
yes, thank you very much. Five years in corrective-labor camps." 

The ten-year sentence of Janos Rozsas, a Hungarian, was read to him in the corridor in Russian, 
without any translation. He signed it, not knowing it was his sentence, and he waited a long time 
afterward for his trial. Still later, when he was in camp, he recalled the incident very vaguely and 
realized what had happened.) 

I returned to the box with a smile. It was strange. Each minute I became jollier and more relieved. 
Everyone was returning with "ten-ruble bills," including Valentin. The lightest term in our group that 
day had been given the bookkeeper who had gone out of his mind. He was still, in fact, beside 
himself. And the lightest term after his was mine. 

In the splashes of sun and the July breeze, the little twig outside the window continued to bob up and 
down as gaily as before. We chattered boisterously. Here and there, more and more frequently, 
laughter resounded in the box. We were laughing because everything had gone off so smoothly. We 
were laughing at the shocked bookkeeper. We were laughing at our morning hopes and at the way 
our cellmates had seen us off and arranged secret signals with us to be transmitted via food parcels — 
four potatoes or two bagels! 

"Well, anyway, there is going to be an amnesty!" several affirmed. 'AH this is just for form's sake 
and it doesn't mean anything. They want to give us a good scare so we'll keep in line. Stalin told an 
American correspondent — " 

"What was his name?" 

"I don't remember his name." 

So they ordered us to take our things, formed us up by twos, and led us once again through that same 
marvelous little park filled with summer. And where did they take us? Once again to the baths. 

And, oh, what a peal of laughter that got! My God, what silly nincompoops! Still roaring, we 
undressed, hung our duds on the same trolley hooks and rolled them into the same roaster they'd 



already been rolled into that very morning. Roaring, each of us took a small sliver of repulsive soap 
and went into the spacious, resonant shower room to wash off our girlish gaiety. We splashed about 
in there, pouring hot clean water on ourselves, and we got to romping about as if we were school 
kids who had come to the baths after their last exam. This cleansing, relieving laughter was, I think, 
not really sick but a living defense for the salvation of the organism. 

As we dried ourselves off, Valentin said to me, reassuringly, intimately: "Well, all right. We are still 
young. We are going to live a long time yet. The main thing is not to make a misstep now. We are 
going to a camp — and we'll not say one word to anyone, so they won't plaster new terms on us. We 
will work honestly — and keep our mouths shut. " 

And he really believed in his program, that naive little kernel of grain caught between StaUn's 
millstones! He really had his hopes set on it. One wanted to agree with him, to serve out the term 
cozily, and then expunge from one's head what one had lived through. 

But I had begun to sense a truth inside myself: if in order to live it is necessary not to live, then 
what's it all for? 

One cannot really say that the OSO had been conceived after the Revolution. Catherine the Great 
had sentenced the journalist Novikov, whom she disliked, to fifteen years on, one might say, an OSO 
basis, since she didn't turn him over to a court. And all the Tsars once in a while, in a fatherly way, 
exiled without any trial those who had incurred their displeasure. In the 1860's, a basic court reform 
took place. It seemed as if rulers and subjects had both begun to develop something like a juridical 
view of society. And yet in the seventies and eighties Korolenko tracked down cases where 
administrative repression had usurped the role of judicial judgment. In 1872, he himself and two 
other students were exiled without trial, on the orders of the Deputy Minister of State Properties — a 
typical case of an OSO. Another time, he and his brother were exiled without trial to Glazov. 
Korolenko has also given us the name of one Fyodor Bogdan, an emissary from the peasants — a 
khodok — who got right up to the Tsar himself and was then exiled. And of Pyankov, too, who was 
acquitted by a court and yet exiled by order of the Tsar. And there were several others as well. And 
Vera Zasulich explained in a letter sent after she emigrated that she had not run away from the court 
and a trial but from nonjudicial administrative repression. 

Thus the tradition of the "dotted line" — the administratively issued sentence — dragged on. But it was 
too lax; it was suitable for a drowsy Asiatic country, but not for a country that was rapidly 
advancing. . . . Moreover, it lacked any definite identity: who was the OSO? Sometimes it was the 

Tsar, sometimes the governor, sometimes the deputy minister. And if it was still possible to 
enumerate names and cases, this was not, begging your pardon, real scope. 

Real scope entered the picture with the twenties, when permanently operating Troikas — panels of 
three, operating behind closed doors — were created to bypass the courts permanently. In the 
beginning they even flaunted it proudly — the Troika of the GPU. Not only did they not conceal the 
names of the members; they publicized them. Who on the Solovetsky Islands did not know the 
names of the famous Moscow Troika — Gleb Boky, Vul, and Vasilyev? Yes, and what a word it was, 
in fact — troika! It bore a slight hint of sleigh bells on the shaft bow; the celebration of Shrovetide; 
and, interwoven with all this, a mystery. Why "troika"? What did it mean? After all, a court wasn't a 
quartet either! And a Troika wasn't a court! And the biggest mystery of all lay in the fact that it was 
kept out of sight. We hadn't been there. We hadn't seen it. All we got was a piece of paper. Sign 
here! The Troika was even more frightening than a Revolutionary Tribunal. It set itself even farther 
apart, muffled itself up, locked itself in a separate room, and — soon — concealed the names of its 
members. Thus we grew used to the idea that the Troika members didn't eat or drink or move about 
among ordinary people. Once they had isolated themselves in order to go into session, they were shut 
off for good, and all we knew of them were the sentences handed out through typists. (And they had 
to be returned too. Such documents couldn't be left in the hands of individuals!) 



These Troikas (we use the plural just in case, because — as with a deity — we never know where or in 
what form it exists) satisfied a persistent need that had arisen: never to allow those arrested to return 
to freedom (This was like an OTK — a Department for Quality Control in industry — but in this case it 
was attached to the GPU — to prevent any spoiled goods.) If it turned out that someone was innocent 
and could therefore not be tried at all, then let him have his "minus 32" via the Troika — which meant 
he couldn't live in any of the provincial capitals — or let him spend two or three years in exile, after 
which he would have a convict's clipped ear, would always be a marked man, and, from then on, a 
recidivist. 

(Please forgive us, reader. We have once more gone astray with this rightist opportunism — this 
concept of "guilt," and of the guilty or innocent. It has, after all, been explained to us that the heart of 
the matter is not personal guilt, but social danger. One can imprison an innocent person if he is 
socially hostile. And one can release a guilty man if he is socially friendly. But lacking legal training, 
we can be forgiven, for the 1926 Code, according to which, my good fellow, we lived for twenty- 
five years and more, was itself criticized for an "impermissible bourgeois approach," for an 
"insufficiently class-conscious approach," and for some kind of "bourgeois weighing of punishments 
in relation to the gravity of what had been committed.") 

Alas, it is not for us to write the absorbing history of this particular Organ: how the Troikas turned 
into OSO's; or when they got renamed; or whether there were OSO's in provincial centers, or just 
one of them in the Great Palace; or which of our great and proud leaders were members; or how 
often they met and how long their sessions lasted; whether or not they were served tea while they 
worked, and if they were, what was served with the tea; and how the work itself proceeded — did 
they converse while it was going on or not? We are not the ones who will write this history — 
because we don't know. All that we have heard is that the essence of the OSO was triune. And even 
though it is still impossible to name its industrious members, yet we do know the three organs 
permanently represented there: one member represented the Central Committee of the Party, one the 
MVD, and one the Chief Prosecutor's office. However, it would not be a miracle if we should learn 
someday that there were never any sessions, and that there was only a staff of experienced typists 
composing extracts from nonexistent records of proceedings, and one general administrator who 
directed the typists. As for typists, there were certainly typists. That we can guarantee. 

Up to 1924, the authority of the Troika was limited to sentences of three years, maximum. From 
1924 on, they moved up to five years of camp; from 1937 on, the OSO could turn out "ten-ruble 
bills"; after 1948, they could rivet a "quarter" — twenty-five years — on you. And there are people — 
Chavdarov, for example — who know that during the war years the OSO even sentenced prisoners to 
execution by shooting. Nothing unusual about this. 

The OSO was nowhere mentioned in either the Constitution or the Code. However, it turned out to 

be the most convenient kind of hamburger machine — easy to operate, undemanding, and requiring 
no legal lubrication. The Code existed on its own, and the OSO existed on its own, and it kept on 
deftly grinding without all the Code's 205 articles, neither invoking them nor even mentioning them. 

As they used to joke in camp: "There is no court for nothing — for that there is an OSO." 

Of course, the OSO itself also needed for convenience some kind of operational shorthand, but for 
that purpose it worked out on its own a dozen "letter" articles which made operations very much 
simpler. It wasn't necessary, when they were used, to cudgel your brains trying to make things fit the 
formulations of the Code. And they were few enough to be easily remembered by a child. Some of 
them we have already described: 

ASA — Anti-Soviet Agitation 

KRD — Counter-Revolutionary Activity 

KRTD — Counter-Revolutionary Trotskyite Activity (And that "T" made the life of a zek in camp 



much harder.) 

PSh — Suspicion of Espionage (Espionage that went beyond the bounds of suspicion was handed 
over to a tribunal. ) 

SVPSh — Contacts Leading (!) to Suspicion of Espionage 

KRM — Counter-Revolutionary Thought 

VAS — Dissemination of Anti-Soviet Sentiments 

SOE — Socially Dangerous Element 

SVE — Socially Harmful Element 

PD — Criminal Activity (a favorite accusation against former camp inmates if there was nothing else 
to be used against them) 

And then, finally, there was the very expansive category: 

ChS — Member of a Family (of a person convicted under one of the foregoing "letter" categories) 

It has to be remembered that these categories were not applied uniformly and equally among 
different groups and in different years. But, as with the articles of the Code and the sections in 
special decrees, they broke out in sudden epidemics. 

There is one more qualification. The OSO did not claim to be handing down a sentence. It did not 
sentence a person but, instead, imposed an administrative penalty. And that was the whole thing in a 
nutshell. Therefore it was, of course, natural for it to have juridical independence! 

But even though they did not claim that the administrative penalty was a court sentence, it could be 
up to twenty-five years and include: 

• Deprivation of titles, ranks, and decorations 

• Confiscation of all property 

• Imprisonment 

• Deprivation of the right to correspond 

Thus a person could disappear from the face of the earth with the help of the OSO even more 
reliably than under the terms of some primitive court sentence. 

The OSO enjoyed another important advantage in that its penalty could not be appealed. There was 
nowhere to appeal to. There was no appeals jurisdiction above it, and no jurisdiction beneath it. It 
was subordinate only to the Minister of Internal Affairs, to Stalin, and to Satan. 

Another big advantage the OSO had was speed. This speed was limited only by the technology of 
typewriting. 

And, last but not least, not only did the OSO not have to confront the accused face to face, which 
lessened the burden on inter-prison transport: it didn't even have to have his photograph. At a time 
when the prisons were badly overcrowded, this was a great additional advantage because the 
prisoner did not have to take up space on the prison floor, or eat free bread once his interrogation had 
been completed. He could be sent off to camp immediately and put to honest work. The copy of the 
sentence could be read to him much later. 

It used to be that in favorable conditions the prisoners were unloaded from freight cars at their 
destinations. And they were made to kneel down right there, next to the tracks — as a pre-caution 
against attempted escape. But it looked as if they were praying to the OSO. And then and there their 
sentences were read out to them. It could also happen differently. In 1938 those who arrived at 
Perebory on prisoner transports did not know either their Code articles or their sentences, but the 
clerk who met them knew, and he looked them up on the list: SVE — Socially Harmful Element — 



five years. That was during the time when there was an urgent need for many hands to work on the 
Moscow- Volga Canal. 

Others worked in the camps for months without knowing their sentences. After this, as I. Dobryak 
reported, they were solemnly lined up — and not just on any old day, but on May 1, 1938, when the 
red flags were flying — and the Stalino Province Troika's sentences were announced. (This would 
indicate that the OSO did get decentralized in times of heavy load.) These sentences were from ten to 
twenty years apiece. And in that same year, my former camp foreman, Sinebryukhov, was sent off 
with a whole trainload of uasentenced prisoners from Chelyabinsk to Cherepovets. Months passed 
and the zeks worked away. And then one rest day in winter (Note the days? Another advantage of 
the OSO), when the frost was cracking, they were driven out into the courtyard and lined up. A 
newly arrived lieutenant appeared and introduced himself as having come to inform them of their 
OSO penalties. But he turned out to be a decent sort because he squinted at their thin footwear and at 
the sun's rays in the steaming frost and said: 

"Well anyway, men, why should you freeze out here? The OSO gave you all ten years apiece. There 
are just a very, very few who got eight. You understand? Disssperse!" 

But in view of the frankly mechanical operation of the Special Board, why have any courts at all? 
Why use a horsecar when there's a noiseless modem streetcar available, which no one can jump out 
of? Is it a matter of keeping the judges well fed? 

Still, it is really quite indecent for a democratic state not to have courts. In 1919, the Eighth Congress 
of the Party proclaimed in its program: Efforts must be made to involve all the working population in 
the exercise of judicial duties. It did not prove possible to involve "all" the working population. 
Conducting a trial is a delicate business. But there was no question of getting along entirely without 
courts. 

However, our political courts — the special collegia of provincial courts, the military tribunals (and 
why, actually, should there be military tribunals in peacetime anyway?), and all the supreme courts 
too — unanimously followed the path of the OSO. They, too, did not get stuck in the mud of public 
trials or in arguments between sides. 

Their primary and principal distinguishing feature was closed doors. They were first of all closed 
courts — for their own convenience. 

And by now we have become so accustomed to the fact that millions and millions of people were 
tried in closed sessions and have become used to this for so long that now and then some mixed-up 
son, brother, or nephew of a prisoner will even snort at you with conviction: "And what would you 
have wanted? . . . 

There's information here. Our enemies will find out! You can't do it!" 

Thus the fear that our "enemies will find out" makes us clamp our head between our own knees. 

Who in our Fatherland, except some bookworms, remembers now that Karakozov, who fired at the 
Tsar, was provided with a defense lawyer? Or that Zhelyabov and all the Narodnaya Volya group 
were tried in public, without any fear that the "Turks would find out"? Or that Vera Zasulich, who 
attempted to kill the official who was, translated into Soviet terms, the Chief of the Moscow 
Administration of the MVD — although she missed, and the bullet went past his head — not only was 
not destroyed in a torture chamber but was acquitted in open court by a jury — no Troika — and then 
went off in triumph in a carriage? 

Despite these comparisons, I do not at all mean to say that a perfect system of courts and justice ever 
existed in Russia. In all probability, an excellent judicial system is the last fruit of the most mature 



society, or else one needs a Solomon. Vladimir Dal notes that in the period before the emancipation 
of the serfs Russia had "not one single proverb containing any praise of the courts." And that really 
means something. It seems likely that they never had time to get around to making up a proverb 
praising the zemstvo chiefs either. But, nevertheless, the judicial reform of 1864 at least set the urban 
sector of our society on the road toward those English models which Herzen praised so highly. 

Saying all this, I still have not forgotten what Dostoyevsky had to say in his Diary of a Writer 
against our trials by jury: about the excesses of some lawyers' eloquence ("Gentlemen of the jury! 
What kind of woman would she have been if she had not stabbed her rival? Gentlemen of the jury! 
Who among you would not have thrown the child out of the window?"); and the risk that a juror's 
momentary impulse might outweigh his civic responsibility. But spiritually Dostoyevsky far 
outstripped the realities of our life, and he worried about what he shouldn't have worried about! He 
believed that we had achieved open trials once and for all! (Indeed, who among his contemporaries 
could have believed in the OSO?) And somewhere else he writes: "It is better to err on the side of 
mercy than on that of the death penalty." Oh, yes, yes, yes! 

Excesses of eloquence do not afflict exclusively a judicial system in process of being established; 
even more conspicuously, they afflict an already established democracy that has not yet discovered 
its moral goals. England again gives us examples, as when, for partisan advantage, the leader of the 
opposition does not hesitate to blame the government for a national predicament worse than actually 
exists. 

Excesses of eloquence are a malady. But what word can we then use for the excessive use of closed 
doors? Dostoyevsky dreamed of a court in which everything essential to the defense of the accused 
would be set forth by the prosecutor. How many aeons will we have to wait for that? Our social 
experience has so far enriched us immeasurably with defense lawyers who accuse the defendant. 
("As an honest Soviet person, as a true patriot, I cannot but feel repugnance at the disclosure of these 
evil deeds.") 

And how comfortable it all is for the judges in a closed session! Judicial robes are not required and 
one can even roll up one's sleeves. How easy it is to work! There are no public-address systems, no 
newspapermen, and no public. (Well, there is a public, an audience, but it consists of interrogators. 
For example, they used to attend the Leningrad Province Court during the day to find out how their 
"proteges" were conducting themselves, and at night went calhng on those prisoners who needed to 
have their consciences appealed to.)3 

The second main characteristic of our political courts is the lack of ambiguity in their work, which is 
to say predetermined verdicts. 

[That same collection edited by A. Y. Vyshinsky, Ot Tyurem k Vospitatelnym Uchrezhdeniyam, 
includes materials indicating that the predetermination of verdicts is an old, old story. In 1924-1929, 
sentences were determined by joint administrative and economic considerations. Beginning in 1924, 
because of national unemployment, the courts reduced the number of verdicts which sentenced 
prisoners to corrective labor while they continued to live at home and increased short-term prison 
sentences. These cases involved only nonpolitical offenders, of course. As a result, prisons were 
overcrowded with short-termers serving sentences of up to six months, and not enough use was 
being made of them in labor colonies. At the beginning of 1929, the People's Commissariat of 
Justice of the U.S.S.R., in Circular No. 5, condemned short-term sentences and, on November 6, 
1929, the eve of the twelfth anniversary of the October Revolution, when the country was 
supposedly entering on the construction of socialism, a decree of the Central Executive Committee 
and the Council of People's Commissars smvply forbade all sentences of less than one year!] 

In other words, you, a judge, always know what the higher-ups expect of you (furthermore there's a 
telephone if you still have any doubts). And, following the example of the OSO's, sentences might 



even be typed out ahead of time, with only the prisoner's name to be added later, by hand. And in 
1942 Strakhovich cried out during a session of the military tribunal of the Leningrad Military 
District: "But I could not have been recruited by Ignatovsky when I was only ten years old!" But the 
presiding judge barked back: "Don't slander the Soviet intelligence service!" The whole thing had 
been predetermined long before: each and every one of the Ignatovsky group was to be sentenced to 
be shot. Some man named Lipov got included in the group, but no one from the group knew him and 
he knew none of them either. Well, so, all right, Lipov got ten years. 

How hugely the predetermination of sentences contributed to easing the thorny life of a judge. It 
wasn't so much a mental relief, in the sense that one didn't have to think, as it was a moral relief. You 
didn't have to torture yourself with worry that you might make a mistake in a sentence and make 
orphans out of your own little children. And the predetermination of sentences could dispose even so 
immovable a judge as Ulrikh to good humor, (And what major execution had he not pronounced?) In 
1945, the Military Collegium was hearing the case of the "Estonian separatists." Short, stocky, good- 
humored Ulrikh was presiding. He didn't pass up a single opportunity to joke not only with his 
colleagues but also with the prisoners. (After all, that's what humaneness is! A new trait — where had 
it ever been seen?) Having learned that Susi was a lawyer, he said to him with a smile: "Well, so 
now your profession can be of some use to you!" Well, there is no need to quarrel. Why be 
embittered? The court routine proceeded pleasantly. They smoked right at the judge's table, and at a 
convenient moment broke off for a good lunch. And when evening began to fall, they had to go and 
confer. But who confers at night? They left the prisoners to sit at their desks all night long and went 
on home. At nine in the morning they came in all brisk and freshly shaved: "Rise. The court is in 
session." And all the prisoners were given a "ten-ruble bill" apiece. 

And if anyone should object that the OSO at least proceeded without hypocrisy, whereas there was 
hypocrisy in instances like the above — they pretended to be conferring but didn't really confer — we 
would certainly have to enter a strong — very strong — dissent! 

Well, the third and final characteristic is dialectics. (Which used to be crudely described in the folk 
saying: "Whichever way you point a wagon tongue, that's the way it goes.") The Code cannot be a 
dead weight in the path of the judge. The articles of the Code had been around during ten, fifteen, 
twenty years of rapid change, and, just as Faust said: 

The whole world changes and everything moves forward, And why should I be afraid to break 
my word? 

All the articles of the Code had become encrusted with interpretations, directions, instructions. And 
if the actions of the accused are not covered by the Code, he can still be convicted: 

• By analogy (What opportunities!) 

• Simply because of origins (7-35: belonging to a socially dangerous milieu) 

[In the Republic of South Africa, terror has gone to such lengths in recent years that every suspicious 
(SOE — Socially Dangerous Element) black can be arrested and held for three months without 
investigation or trial. Anyone can see immediately the flimsiness of this: why not from three to ten 
years?] 

• For contacts with dangerous persons (Here's scope for you! Who is "dangerous" and what 
"contacts" consist of only the judge can say.) 

[This is something we hadn't known, something the newspaper hvestiya told us in July, 1957.] 

But one should not complain about the precise wording of our published laws either. On January 13, 
1950, a decree was issued re-establishing capital punishment. (One is bound, of course, to consider 



that capital punishment never did depart from Beria's cellars.) And the decree stated that the death 
sentence could be imposed on subversives — diversionists. What did that mean? It didn't say. losif 
Vissarionovich loved it that way: not to say all of it, just to hint. Did it refer only to someone who 
blew up rails with TNT? It didn't say. We had long since come to know what a "diversionist" was: 
someone who produced goods of poor quality was a diversionist. But what was a subversive? Was 
someone subverting the authority of the government, for example, in a conversation on a streetcar? 
Or if a girl married a foreigner — wasn't she subverting the majesty of our Motherland? 

But it is not the judge who judges. The judge only takes his pay. The directives did the judging. The 
directive of 1937: ten years; twenty years; execution by shooting. The directive of 1943: twenty 
years at hard labor; hanging. The directive of 1945: ten years for everyone, plus five of 
disenfranchisement (manpower for three Five- Year Plans). 

[Babayev, in fact a nonpolitical, shouted at them: "You can 'muzzle' me for three hundred years! But 
I'll never lift my hand for you, you benefactors!"] 

The directive of 1949: everyone gets twenty-five. 

[Thus it was that a real spy (Schultz, in Berlin, in 1948) could get ten years, and someone who had 
never been a spy, Gunther Waschkau, got twenty-five. Because he was in the wave of 1949.] 

The machine stamped out the sentences. The prisoner had already been deprived of all rights when 
they cut off his buttons on the threshold of State Security, and he couldn't avoid a stretch. The 
members of the legal profession were so used to this that they fell on their faces in 1958 and caused a 
big scandal. The text of the projected new "Fundamental Principles of Criminal Prosecution of the 
U.S.S.R." was published in the newspapers, and they'd forgotten to include any reference to possible 
grounds for acquittal. The government newspaper issued a mild rebuke: 

"The impression might be created that our courts only bring in convictions." 

But just take the jurists' side for a moment: why, in fact, should a trial be supposed to have two 
possible outcomes when our general elections are conducted on the basis of one candidate? An 
acquittal is, in fact, unthinkable from the economic point of view! It would mean that the informers, 
the Security officers, the interrogators, the prosecutor's staff, the internal guard in the prison, and the 
convoy had all worked to no purpose. 

Here is one straightforward and typical case that was brought before a military tribunal. In 1941, the 
Security operations branch of our inactive army stationed in Mongolia was called on to show its 
activity and vigilance. The military medical assistant Lozovsky, who was jealous of Lieutenant Pavel 
Chulpenyev because of some woman, realized this. He addressed three questions to Chulpenyev 
when they were alone: 

1. "Why, in your opinion, are we retreating from the Germans?" (Chulpenyev's reply: "They have 
more equipment and they were mobilized earlier." Lozovsky's counter: "No, it's a maneuver. We're 
decoying them.") 

2. "Do you believe the Allies will help?" (Chulpenyev: "I believe they'll help, but not from unselfish 
motives." Lozovsky's counter: "They are deceiving us. They won't help us at all.") 

3. "Why was Voroshilov sent to command the Northwest Front?" 

Chulpenyev answered and forgot about them. And Lozovsky wrote a denunciation. Chulpenyev was 
summoned before the Political Branch of the division and expelled from the Komsomol: for a 
defeatist attitude, for praising German equipment, for beUttling the strategy of our High Command. 



The loudest voice raised against him belonged to the Komsomol organizer Kalyagin, who had 
behaved like a coward at the battle of Khalkhin-Gol, in Chulpenyev's presence, and therefore found 
it convenient to get rid of the witness once and for all. 

Chulpenyev's arrest followed. He had one confrontation with Lozovsky. Their previous conversation 
was not even brought up by the interrogator. One question was asked: "Do you know this man?" 
"Yes." "Witness, you may leave." (The interrogator was afraid the charge might fall through.) 

[Today Lozovsky holds the degree of candidate in medical sciences and lives in Moscow. 
Everything is going well with him. Chulpenyev drives a trolley bus.] 

Depressed by his month's incarceration in the sort of hole in the ground we have already described, 
Chulpenyev appeared before a military tribunal of the 36th Motorized Division. Present were 
Lebedev, the Divisional Political Commissar, and Slesarev, the Chief of the Political Branch. The 
witness Lozovsky was not even summoned to testify. However, after the trial, to document the false 
testimony, they got Lozovsky's signature and that of Political Commissar Seryegin. The questions 
the tribunal asked were: Did you have a conversation with Lozovsky? What did he ask you about? 
What were your answers? Naively, Chulpenyev told them. He still couldn't understand what he was 
guilty of. "After all, many people talk like that!" he innocently exclaimed. The tribunal was 
interested: "Who? Give us their names." But Chulpenyev was not of their breed! He had the last 
word. "I beg the court to give me an assignment that will mean my death so as to assure itself once 
more of my patriotism" — and, like a simplehearted warrior of old — "Me and the person who 
slandered me — both of us together." 

Oh, no! Our job is to kill off all those chivalrous sentiments in the people. Lozovsky's duty was to 
hand out pills and Seryegin's duty was to indoctrinate the soldiers. 

[Viktor Andreyevich Seryegin lives in Moscow today and works in a Consumer Service Combine 
attached to the Moscow Soviet. He lives well.] 

Whether or not you died wasn't important. What was important was that we were on guard. The 
members of the military tribunal went out, had a smoke and returned: ten years plus three years' 
disenfranchisement. 

There were certainly more than ten such cases in every division during the war. (Otherwise, the 
military tribunals would not have justified the cost of maintaining them.) And how many divisions 
were there in all? Let the reader count them up himself. 

The sessions of the military tribunals were depressingly like one another. The judges were 
depressingly faceless and emotionless — rubber stamps. The sentences all came off the same 
assembly line. 

Everyone maintained a serious mien, but everyone understood it was a farce, above all the boys of 
the convoy, who were the simplest sort of fellows. At the Novosibirsk Transit Prison in 1945 they 
greeted the prisoners with a roll call based on cases. "So and so! Article 58-la, twenty-five years." 
The chief of the convoy guard was curious: "What did you get it for?" "For nothing at all." "You're 
lying. The sentence for nothing at all is ten years." 

When the military tribunals were under pressure, their "sessions" lasted one minute — the time it took 
them to go out and come in again. When their working day went on for sixteen consecutive hours, 
one could see, through the door of the conference room, bowls of fruit on a table set with a white 
tablecloth. If they weren't in a hurry, they enjoyed delivering their sentence "with a psychological 
twist": "... sentenced to the supreme measure of punishment!" And then a pause. The judges would 
look the condemned man in the eye. It was interesting to see how he took it. What was he feeling at 



that moment? Only then would the verdict continue: "... but taking into consideration the sincere 
repentance ..." 

On the walls of the waiting room messages had been scratched with nails and scrawled in pencil: "I 
got execution," "I got twenty-five," "I got a 'tenner!' " They didn't clean off these graffiti; they served 
an educational purpose. Be scared; bow down; don't think that you can change anything by your 
behavior. Even if you were to speak in your own defense with the eloquence of Demosthenes, in a 
hall empty except for a handful of interrogators — like Olga Sliozberg in 1936, at the Supreme 
Court — it would not help you in the slightest. All you could do would be to increase your sentence 
from ten years to execution. For instance, if you were to shout: "You are fascists! I am ashamed to 
have been a member of your Party for several years!" (Nikolai Semyonovich Daskal did it in 1937, 
at the Special Collegium of the Azov-Black Sea Province at Maikop, presided over by Kholik.) In 
that situation what they did was fabricate a new case and do you in once and for all. 

Chavdarov has described an incident in which the accused suddenly repudiated at their trial all the 
false testimony they had given during the interrogation. And what happened? If there was any 
hesitation while glances were exchanged, it lasted no more than a few seconds. The prosecutor asked 
for a recess, without explaining why. The interrogators and their tough-boy helpers dashed in from 
the interrogation prison. All the prisoners, distributed among separate boxes, were given a good 
beating all over again and promised another after the next recess. The recess came to an end. Once 
again the judges questioned all of them — and this time they all confessed. 

Aleksandr Grigoryevich Karetnikov, the Director of the Textile Research Institute, provided an 
example of outstanding astuteness. Just before the session of the Military Collegium of the Supreme 
Court was to begin, he sent word through the guard that he wanted to give supplementary testimony. 
This, of course, provoked curiosity. He was received by the prosecutor. Karetnikov displayed his 
infected collarbone, broken by the interrogator who had struck him with a stool, and declared: "I 
signed everything under torture." By this time the prosecutor was cursing himself for having been so 
greedy to get "supplementary" testimony, but it was too late. Each of them is fearless only as long as 
he is an anonymous cog in the whole machine. But just as soon as the responsibility has become 
personalized, individualized, concentrated on him, just as soon as the searchlight is on him, he grows 
pale and realizes that he is nothing and can slip on any chance banana peel. So Karetnikov caught the 
prosecutor, and the latter was unwilling to suppress the whole business. The session of the Military 
Collegium began and Karetnikov repeated his statement in front of them. Now there was a case in 
which the Military Collegium went out and really conferred! But the only verdict they could have 
brought in was acquittal, which would have meant releasing Karetnikov on the spot. Therefore they 
brought in no verdict at all! 

As if nothing at all had happened, they took Karetnikov back to prison, treated his collarbone, and 
kept him another three months. A very polite new interrogator entered the case, who wrote out a new 
warrant for Karetnikov's arrest. (If the Collegium had not twisted things, he might at least have spent 
those three months as a free man.) The interrogator asked the same questions as the first interrogator. 
Karetnikov, sensing freedom in the offing, conducted himself staunchly and refused to admit any 
guilt whatever. And what happened next? He got eight years from an OSO. 

This example shows well enough the possibilities available to the prisoner and the possibilities 
available to the OSO. It was the poet Derzhavin who wrote: 

A partial court is worse than banditry. 
Judges are enemies; there sleeps the law. 
In front of you the citizen's neck 
Lies stretched out, quiet and without defense. 

But it was a rare thing for such accidents to take place in the Military Collegium of the Supreme 



Court. For that matter, it was in general rare for it to rub clear its clouded eyes and take a look at any 
individual little tin soldier of a prisoner. In 1937, A.D.R., an electrical engineer, was taken up to the 
fourth floor, running upstairs with a convoy guard on either side of him. (In all probability, the 
elevator was working, but there were so many prisoners pouring in and out that the officials and 
employees would not have been able to use the elevator if the prisoners had been permitted to.) 
Meeting a convicted prisoner who had just left, they dashed into the court. The Military Collegium 
was in such a hurry they hadn't sat down yet, and all three members remained standing. Catching his 
breath with difficulty, for he had been weakened by his long interrogation, R. blurted out his full 
name. They muttered something, exchanged glances, and Ulrikh — the very same, no less — 
proclaimed: "Twenty years!" And they dragged R. out at a gallop and, at a gallop, dragged in the 
next prisoner. 

It was all like a dream. In February, 1963, 1, too, got to climb those stairs, but I was courteously 
accompanied by a colonel who was also a Communist Party organizer. And in that room with the 
circular colonnade, in which, they say, the Plenary Sessions of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R. 
meet — with an enormous horseshoelike table that had another round table inside it and seven antique 
chairs — seventy officials of the Military Collegium heard me out — that same Military Collegium 
which once sentenced Karetnikov, and R. and others and others, and so on and so forth. And I said to 
them: "What a remarkable day this is! Although I was first sentenced to camp and then to eternal 
exile, I never before saw a single judge face to face. And now I see all of you assembled here 
together!" (And they, rubbing their eyes open, for the first time saw a living zek.) 

But it turned out that it had not been they! Yes. They said it had not been they. They assured me that 
those others were no longer present. Some had retired honorably on pensions. A few had been 
removed. (Ulrikh, the outstanding executioner of all, had been removed, it turned out, back in 
Stalin's time, in 1950, for, believe it or not, leniency.) Some of them — there were only a few of 
these — had even been tried under Khrushchev, and, in their role as defendants, they had threatened: 
"Today you are trying us. Tomorrow we will try you. Watch out!" But like all the starts made under 
Khrushchev, this effort, too, which had been very active at first, was soon abandoned. He dropped it 
before it got far enough to produce an irreversible change; which meant that things were left where 
they had been. 

On that occasion, several veterans of the bench, all speaking up at the same time, gave voice to their 
recollections, unwittingly providing me with material for this chapter. (Oh, if only they had 
undertaken to remember and to publish! But the years pass; another five have gone by; and it has not 
become any brighter or lighter.) They recalled how certain judges, at conferences of their judicial 
colleagues, took pride when they spoke from the rostrum of having succeeded in not applying Article 
51 of the Criminal Code, which specifies those circumstances that extenuate guilt, and thus had 
succeeded in handing down sentences of twenty-five years instead of ten. And how the courts had 
been humiliatingly subservient to the Organs. A certain judge was trying a case. A Soviet citizen 
who had returned from the United States had made the slanderous statement that there were good 
automobile roads in America — and nothing else. That was all there was to the case. 

The judge ventured to send the case back for further investigation /or the purpose of getting 
"genuine anti-Soviet materials" - in other words, so that the accused could be beaten and tortured. 

But his praiseworthy intention wasn't taken into account. The angry answer came back: "You mean 
you don't trust our Organs?" And, in the upshot, the judge was exiled to the post of secretary of a 
military tribunal on Sakhalin! (Under Khrushchev, reproof was not so severe; judges who "made 
mistakes" were sent — where do you think? — to work as lawyers. ) 

[ Izvestiya, June 9, 1964. This throws an interesting light on views of legal defense! In 1918, V. I. 
Lenin demanded that judges who handed down sentences that were too lenient be excluded from the 
Party.] 



The prosecutor's office was just as subservient to the Organs. When, in 1942, Ryumin's flagrant 
abuses in the counterintelligence section of the Northern Fleet became known, the prosecutor's office 
did not dare interfere on its own, but only reported respectfully to Abakumov that his boys were 
acting up. Abakumov had good reason to consider the Organs the salt of the earth! (This was the 
occasion when he called in Ryumin and promoted him — to his own eventual undoing.) 

There just wasn't enough time that February day, or they would have told me ten times as much as 
they did. But this, too, provides food for thought. If both the courts and the prosecutor's office were 
simply pawns of the Minister of State Security, then maybe there isn't any need for a separate chapter 
to describe them. 

They vied with each other in telling me things, and I kept looking around me in astonishment. They 
were people! Real people! They were smiling! They were explaining that their intentions were of the 
best. Well, and what if things turn full circle and it is once again up to them to try me? Maybe even 
in that very hall — and they were showing me the main hall. 

Well, so they will convict me. 

Which comes first — the chicken or the egg? The people or the system? 

For several centuries we had a proverb: "Don't fear the law, fear the judge." 

But, in my opinion, the law has outstripped people, and people have lagged behind in cruelty. It is 
time to reverse the proverb: 
"Don't fear the judge, fear the law." 

Abakumov's kind of law, of course. 

They stepped onto the rostrum and talked about Ivan Denisovich. They said happily that the book 
had eased their consciences (that's what they said . . .). They admitted that the picture I painted was 
decidedly on the bright side, that every one of them knew of camps worse than that. (Ah, so they did 
know?) Of the seventy people seated around that horseshoe, several turned out to be knowledgeable 
in literature, even to be readers of Novy Mir. They were eager for reform. They spoke forcefully 
about our social ulcers, about our neglect of our rural areas. 

And I sat there and thought: If the first tiny droplet of truth has exploded like a psychological bomb, 
what then will happen in our country when whole waterfalls of Truth burst forth? 

And they will burst forth. It has to happen. 

Chapter 8 

The Law as a Child 

We forget everything. What we remember is not what actually happened, not history, but merely that 
hackneyed dotted line they have chosen to drive into our memories by incessant ham- mering. 

I do not know whether this is a trait common to all mankind, but it is certainly a trait of our people. 
And it is a vexing one. It may have its source in goodness, but it is vexing nonetheless. It makes us 
an easy prey for liars. 

Therefore, if they demand that we forget even the public trials, we forget them. The proceedings 

were open and were reported in our newspapers, but they didn't drill a hole in our brains to make us 
remember — and so we've forgotten them. Only things repeated on the radio day after day drill holes 



in the brain. I am not even talking about young people, since they, of course, know nothing of all 
this, but about people who were alive at the time of those trials. Ask any middle-aged person to 
enumerate the highly publicized open trials. He will remember those of Bukharin and Zinoviev. And, 
knitting his brow, that of the Promparty too. And that's all. There were no other public trials. 

Yet in actual fact they began right after the October Revolu- tion. In 1918, quantities of them were 
taking place, in many dif- ferent tribunals. They were taking place before there were either laws or 
codes, when the judges had to be guided solely by the requirements of the revolutionary workers' and 
peasants' power. At the same time, they were regarded as blazing their own trail of bold legality. 
Their detailed history will someday be written by someone, and it's not for us even to attempt to 
include it in our present investigation. 

However, we cannot do without a brief review. It is our duty, anyway, to probe some of the charred 
ruins which go all the way back to that gentle, misty, rose-colored dawn. 

In those dynamic years, the sabers of war were not rusting in their scabbards, nor did the 
executioners' revolvers have time to grow cold in their holsters. Only later on did the custom de- 
velop of hiding executions in cellars under cover of night and of shooting the victims in the back of 
the head. In 1918, the famous Ryazan Chekist Stelmakh had those sentenced to death shot in the 
courtyard, during the day, so that prisoners awaiting execu- tion could watch from the prison 
windows. 

There was an official term current then: extrajudicial reprisal . . . not because there weren't any 
courts at the time, but because there was the Cheka. 

[This fledgling whose beak had not yet hardened was warmed and encour- aged by Trotsky: "Terror 
is a powerful means of policy and one would have to be a hypocrite not to understand this." And 
Zinoviev rejoiced too, not yet fore- seeing his own end: "The letters GPU, like the letters VChK, are 
the most popular in the world."] 

Because it was more efficient. Certainly, there were courts, and they tried and convicted and 
executed people, but we need to remember that, parallel to them and inde- pendently of them, 
extrajudicial reprisal went on at the same time. How can one depict its scale? M. Latsis, in his 
popular review of the Cheka's activity, gives us material for only a year and a half (1918 and half of 
1919 ) and for only twenty provinces of Central Russia ("The figures presented here are far from 
com- plete," in part, perhaps, out of modesty): those shot by the Cheka (i.e., without trial, bypassing 
the courts) numbered 8,389 persons (eight thousand three hundred and eighty-nine); coun- 
terrevolutionary organizations uncovered — 412 (a fantastic fig- ure, in view of our inadequate 
capacity for organization throughout our history and also the general isolation of indi- viduals in 
those years and the general psychological depression); the total of those arrested — 87,000 (and this 
figure smells of understatement). 

What comparison is available for purposes of evaluation? In 1907 a group of leftist leaders published 
a collection of essays entitled Against Capital Punishment, in which are listed by name all those 
sentenced to death in Tsarist Russia from 1826 to 1906. The editors qualify their findings with the 
statement that there were some additional victims, whose names remain un- known, and that the Ust 
is incomplete. (However, it is certainly not so incomplete as Latsis' materials compiled during the 
Civil War.) The Ust totals 1,397 — from which 233 persons have to be deducted because their death 
sentences were commuted, as do an additional 270, who were sentenced in absentia and never 
caught (for the most part Polish rebels who had fled to the West). That leaves 894, a figure covering 
eighty years, which is not even close to Latsis' total for only one and a half years, and not including 
all the provinces of Russia either. True, the editors of the collection cite another presumed statistic of 
1,310 for those sentenced to death (although perhaps not executed) in 1906 alone, and a total of 
3,419 for 1826 through 1906. But this, mind you, was right in the midst of the notorious Stolypin 



reaction, a period for which an additional figure is available: 950 executions over a period of six 
months. (In fact, the Stolypin military field tribunals were in existence for six months all told.) It 
sounds awful, and yet it does not make much of an impression on our hardened nerves: even if we 
multiply by three this figure of 950 for six months, in order to compare it with the Latsis figure for 
eighteen months in the postrevolutionary period, we still come up with the fact that the terror after 
the Revolution was at least three times more in- tense than Stolypin's. And that was for just twenty 
provinces and excluded courts and tribunals. 

And from November, 1917, on, the courts acted on their own. Despite all the difficulties at the time. 
Guiding Principles of the Criminal Law of the R.S.F.S.R. were issued for their use in 1919. (We have 
not read this work, could not obtain it, and know only that it included "imprisonment for an 
indefinite term" — in other words, pending a special order.) 

The courts were of three kinds: the people's courts, the circuit courts, and the Revolutionary 
Tribunals — the Revtribunals. 

The people's courts handled ordinary misdemeanors and non- political criminal cases. They were not 
empowered to impose death sentences, and, laughable as it seems, the people's court could not, in 
fact, impose sentences exceeding two years. Up to July, 1918, the heritage of the Left SR's still 
endured in our ju- dicial proceedings. Only by special intervention of the govern- ment and only 
individually were impermissibly lenient sentences raised to twenty years. 

[See Part III, Chapter 1.] 

From July, 1918, on, the people's courts were given the right to hand down sentences of up to five 
years. And in 1922, when all threats of war had died down, the people's courts got the right to 
impose sentences of up to ten years and lost the right to sentence anyone to less than six months. 

From the beginning, the circuit courts and the Revtribunals had the power to impose the death 
sentence, but they lost it for a brief period: the circuit courts in 1920, and the Revtribunals in 1921. 
There were many tiny ups and downs in this period which only a historian pursuing all the details of 
those years would be able to trace. 

Perhaps that historian will seek out the documents and un- roll for us the scroll of tribunal sentences 
and also the statistics. (Though probably not. Whatever time and events failed to destroy was 
destroyed by persons interested in having such ma- terial disappear.) We know only that the 
Revtribunals were not asleep. They were handing down sentences right and left. And we know, too, 
that every time a city was captured during the Civil War the event was marked not only by 
gunsmoke in the court- yards of the Cheka, but also by sleepless sessions of the tribunal. And you 
did not have to be a White officer, a senator, a land- owner, a monk, a Cadet, an SR, or an Anarchist 
in order to get your bullet. Soft white uncallused hands alone were sufficient in. those years. But one 
can also hazard the guess that in Izhevsk or Votkinsk, Yaroslavl or Murom, Kozlov or Tambov, the 
uprisings were very costly as well to those who had callused workers' hands. And if those scrolls — of 
both the extrajudicial executions and those by tribunal — are unrolled for us someday, the most 
surpris- ing thing will be the number of ordinary peasants we find on them. Because there was no 
end to the number of peasant up- risings and revolts from 1918 to 1921, even though they did not 
adorn the colored pages of the official History of the Civil War, and even though no one 
photographed them, and no one filmed motion pictures of those furious crowds attacking machine 
guns with clubs, pitchforks, and axes and, later, lined up for execution with their arms tied behind 
their backs — ten for one! The revolt in Sapozhok is remembered only in Sapozhok; the one in 
Pitelino only in Pitelino. We learn from Latsis the number of peasant rebellions that were suppressed 
during that same year and a half in twenty provinces — 344. (From 1918 on, peasant revolts were 
already being called "kulak" revolts, for how could the peasants revolt against the workers' and 
peasants' power! But how then could one explain that in every instance it was not just three peasant 



huts that revoked but the whole village? Why did the masses of poor peasants not kill the insurgent 
"kulaks" with those same pitchforks and axes, instead of marching with them against the machine 
guns? Latsis claims: "The kulaks compelled the rest of the peasants to take part in these revolts by 
promises, slander, and threats." But what could have been more laden with promises than the slogans 
of the Committees of the Poor? And what could have been more loaded with threats than the 
machine guns of the Special Purpose Detachments, the CHON? 

And how many wholly random people, completely random, whose destruction inevitably accounts 
for half the casualties of every real, shooting revolution, were caught between those mill- stones? 

Here is an eyewitness description of a session of the Ryazan Revtribunal which met in 1919 to hear 
the case of the Tolstoyan I. Ye v. 

With the proclamation of universal and compulsory conscrip- tion into the Red Army (just one year 
after the slogans: "Down with the wan"; "Stick your bayonets in the ground!"; "Go home!"), "54,697 
deserters were caught and sent to the front" by September, 1919, in Ryazan Province alone. (And 

how many others were shot on the spot as examples?) Ye v was not a deserter at all but a man 

who simply and openly refused to enter military service because of his religious convictions. He was 
con- scripted by main force, but in the barracks he refused to take up arms or undergo training. The 
enraged Political Commissar of the unit turned him over to the Cheka, saying: "He does not 
recognize the Soviet government." There was an interrogation. Three Chekists sat behind the desk, 
each with a Naguan revolver in front of him. "We have seen heroes like you before. You'll be on 

your knees to us in a minute! Either agree to fight immediately, or we'll shoot you!" But Ye- v 

was firm. He couldn't fight. He was a believer in free Christianity. And his case was sent to the 
Revtribunal. 

It was an open session, with a hundred spectators in the hall. There was a polite elderly defense 
lawyer. The learned "accuser" — the term "prosecutor" was forbidden until 1922 — was Nikol- sky, 
another old jurist. One of the members of the Revtribunal — a juror — tried to elicit the views of the 
accused. (How can you, a representative of the working people, share the opinions of the aristocrat 
Count Tolstoi?) But the presiding judge in- terrupted the questioning and refused to permit it to 
continue. There was a quarrel. 

Juror: "You do not want to kill people, and you try to persuade others to refrain from killing. But the 
Whites began the war, and you are preventing us from defending ourselves. We will send you to 
Kolchak, and you can preach your nonresistance there!" 

Ye v: "I will go wherever you send me." 

Accuser: "This tribunal is not supposed to concern itself with any nondescript criminal actions but 
only with those which are counterrevolutionary. In view of the nature of this crime, I demand that 
the case be turned over to a people's court." 

Presiding Judge: "Ha! Actions! What a pettifogger you are! We are guided not by the laws but by 
our revolutionary conscience!" 

Accuser: "I insist that you include my demand in the record." 

Defense Attorney: "I support the accuser. The case should be heard in an ordinary court." 

Presiding Judge: "There's an old fool for you! Where did they manage to find him?" 

Defense Attorney: "I have been a practicing lawyer for forty years and this is the first time I have 
heard such an insult. Enter it in the record." 



Presiding Judge (laughing): "We'll enter it, we'll enter it!" Laughter in the hall. The court exits in 
order to confer. The sounds of a noisy argument come from the conference room. 

They return with the sentence: to be shot. 

Loud indignation in the hall. 

Accuser: "I protest against the sentence and will complain to the Commissariat of Justice!" 
Defense Lawyer: "I join my voice to that of the accuser." 
Presiding Judge: "Clear the hall!" 

The convoy came and led Ye v to jail, saying to him: "If everyone was like you, brother, how 

good it would be! There would be no war, and no Whites and no Reds!" They went back to their 
barracks and called a Red Army meeting. It condemned the sentence and sent a protest to Moscow. 

In daily expectation of death. Ye v waited for thirty-seven days, while, from the prison window, 

he watched executions taking place. They commuted his sentence to fifteen years of strict detention. 

This is an instructive example. Although "revolutionary legal- ity" won a partial victory, how 
enormous an effort it required on the part of the presiding judge! How much disorganization, lack of 
discipline, lack of political consciousness there still was! The prosecution stood firmly with the 
defense. The convoy guards stuck their noses into something that wasn't their business in order to 
send off a protest. Whew, the dictatorship of the prole- tariat and the new kind of court were not 
having things easy by any means! Of course, not all the sessions were anything like so turbulent, but 
this wasn't the only one of its kind. How many years it would take to reveal, direct, and confirm the 
necessary line, until the defense would stand as one with the prosecution and the court, and the 
accused would be in agreement with them too, and all the resolutions of the workers as well! 

To pursue this enterprise of many years' duration is the re- warding task of the historian. As for us — 
how are we to make our way through that rosy mist? Whom are we to ask about it? Those who were 
shot aren't talking, and neither are those who have been scattered to the four winds. Even if the 
defendants, and the lawyers, and the guards, and the spectators have survived, no one will allow us 
to seek them out. 

Evidently, the only help we will get is from the prosecution. 

In this connection, I was given by well-wishers an intact copy of a collection of speeches for the 
prosecution delivered by that fierce revolutionary, the first People's Commissar of Military Affairs in 
the Workers' and Peasants' Government, the Com- mander in Chief, and later the organizer of the 
Department of Exceptional Courts of the People's Commissariat of Justice — where the personal rank 
of tribune was being readied for him, until Lenin vetoed the title — the glorious accuser in the 
greatest trials, subsequently exposed as the ferocious enemy of the people, N. V. Krylenko. 

[Krylenko, Za Pyat Let (1918-1922). Edition 7,000 copies. Prose- cution speeches in the most 
important trials held before the Moscow and the Supreme Revolutionary Tribunals.] 

And if, despite everything, we want to at- tempt a brief review of the public trials, if we are 
determined to try to get a feeling for the judicial atmosphere of the first post- revolutionary years, 
then we have to learn to read this Krylenko text. We have no other. And using it as a basis, we must 
try to picture to ourselves everything that is missing from it and every- thing that happened in the 
provinces too. 



Of course, we would prefer to see the stenographic record of those trials, to listen to the dramatic 
voices from beyond the grave of those first defendants and those first lawyers, speaking at a time 
when no one could have foreseen in what implacable sequence all of it would be swallowed up — 
together with those Revtribunal members as well. 

However, as Krylenko has explained, /or a whole series of technical reasons "it was inconvenient to 
publish the stenographic records" It was convenient only to publish his speeches for the prosecution 
and the sentences handed down by the tribunals, which by that time had already come to jibe 
completely with the demands of the accuser-prosecutor. 

Krylenko claims that the archives of the Moscow Revtribunal and the Supreme Revtribunal turned 
out (by 1922) to be "far from orderly. ... In a whole series of cases the stenographic records . . . were 
so incomprehensible that it was necessary either to cross out entire pages or else to try to restore the 
text from memory" ! And a "series of the biggest trials" — including the trial which followed the 
revolt of the Left SR's, and the case of Ad- mirai Shchastny — "were conducted entirely without 
stenographic records." 

This is strange. The condemnation of the Left SR's was not a trivial matter. It was, after the February 
and October revolutions, the third turning point in our history, signaling the transition to a one-party 
system in the state. Not a few of them were shot. And no stenographic record was made. 

And the "Military Plot" of 1919 was "liquidated by the Cheka in an extrajudicial reprisal," which 
"was further proof of its existence." (In this case more than one thousand people were arrested 
altogether, and, really, how could trials have been set up for them all?) 

So just try to produce a neat, orderly report on the trials of those years! 

Nevertheless we can learn the important principles involved in them. For example, the supreme 
accuser — in other words, the Prosecutor General — informs us that the AU-Russian Central Ex- 
ecutive Committee had the right to intervene in any judicial pro- ceeding. "VTsIK pardons and 
punishes, at its own discretion without any limitation whatever." For example, a six-month sentence 
was changed to ten years. (And, as the reader under- stands, it was not necessary for the entire AU- 
Russian Central Executive Committee to assemble at a plenary meeting to this end, since its 
Chairman, Sverdlov, for example, could correct a sentence without leaving his office.) All of this, 
Krylenko ex- plains, "shows the superiority of our system over the false theory of the separation of 
powers," that is, the theory of the independ- ence of the judiciary. (True, Sverdlov also said: "It is 
very good that the legislative and executive power are not divided by a thick wall as they are in the 
West. All problems can be decided quickly." Especially on the phone.) 

Krylenko formulated even more frankly and precisely the general tasks of the Soviet Courts in his 
speeches before those tribunals, when the court was "at one and the same time both 

the creator of the law [Krylenko's italics] . . . and a political weapon." (My italics.) 

Creator of the law because, for four years, there were no codes. They had thrown out the Tsarist 
codes, and they had not com- posed their own. "Don't tell me our criminal courts ought to act 
exclusively on the basis of existing written norms. We live in the process of Revolution." "A tribunal 
is not the kind of court in which fine points of jurisprudence and clever stratagems are to be restored. 
. . . We are creating a new law and new ethical norms." And also: "No matter how much is said here 
about the eternal law of truth, justice, etc., we know . . . how dearly these have cost us." 

(But if your prison terms are compared with ours, maybe it didn't cost you so dearly after all? Maybe 
eternal justice was somewhat more comfortable?) 



The reason that fine points of jurisprudence are unnecessary is that there is no need to clarify 
whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty: the concept of guilt is an old bourgeois concept which 
has now been uprooted. 

And so we heard from Comrade Krylenko that a tribunal was not that kind of court! On another 
occasion we would hear from him that a tribunal was not a court at all: "A tribunal is an organ of the 
class struggle of the workers directed against their enemies" and must act "from the point of view of 
the interests of the revolu- tion . . . having in mind the most desirable results for the masses of 
workers and peasants." People are not people, but "carriers of specific ideas." "No matter what the 
individual qualities [of the defendant], only one method of evaluating him is to be applied: 
evaluation from the point of view of class expediency." 

In other words, you can exist only if it's expedient for the working class. And if "this expediency 
should require that the avenging sword should fall on the head of the defendants, then no ... verbal 
arguments can help." (Such as arguments by lawyers, etc.) "In our revolutionary court we are guided 
not by articles of the law and not by the degree of extenuating circum- stances; in the tribunal we 
must proceed on the basis of con- siderations of expediency." 

That was the way it was in those years: people lived and breathed and then suddenly found out that 
their existence was inexpedient. 

And it must also be kept in mind that it was not what he had done that constituted the defendant's 
burden, but what he might do if he were not shot now. "We protect ourselves not only against the 
past but also against the future." 

Comrade Krylenko's pronouncements are clear and all-inclu- sive. They bring alive for us that whole 
period of the law in sharp relief. The clarity of autumn suddenly pierces the mists of spring and 
reaches us. And is it perhaps unnecessary to go further? Perhaps we aren't required to page through 
trial after trial. These pronouncements will be henceforth inexorably applied. 

Close your eyes tight for a minute and picture a tiny court- room — not yet gilded. Earnest members 
of the tribunal in simple field jackets, lean, not yet fat-faced. The accusing power — as Krylenko 
loved to style himself — wears an unbuttoned civilian jacket, with a glimpse of a sailor's striped 
undershirt just visible at the open throat. 

The supreme accuser expresses himself in this sort of language: "The question of fact is interesting 
to me!"; "Define concretely the aspect of the tendency!"; "We are operating on the plane of analysis 
of objective truth." Sometimes, as you read, a quotation from the Latin shines out. (It is true that the 
same quotation turns up in case after case, but, after several years, a different one does appear. ) And 
no wonder — he did, after all, complete the course in two faculties despite all his revolutionary 
running around. What attracts one to him are his frank opinions about the de- fendants: "Professional 
scoundrels!" And he isn't hypocritical in the least. If he didn't like the defendant's smile, he didn't 
hes- itate to blurt out a threat, even before any sentence was imposed. 

"And as for you and your smile, Citizeness Ivanova, we'll make you pay for it, and we'll find a way 
to fix it so that you never laugh again!" 

So, shall we begin? 

A. The Case of "Russkiye Vedomosti" 

In this case, one of the earliest, /ree speech was on trial. On March 24, 1918, this famous 
"professorial" newspaper published an article by Savinkov entitled "En Route." They would have 
much preferred to arrest Savinkov himself, but he really was en route, damn it, and where was he to 



be found? So instead they closed down the paper and brought the elderly editor, P. V. Yegorov, to 
court as a defendant, insisting that he explain how he had dared to publish the article. After all, the 
New Era was four months old, and it was time to get used to it! 

Yegorov naively defended himself by saying that the article had been written by a "leading political 
figure whose opinion was of general interest whether or not the editors shared it." Further- more, he 
saw nothing slanderous in Savinkov's having said: "Let us not forget that Lenin, Natanson, and Co. 
arrived in Russia via Berlin; i.e., that the German authorities helped them return to the homeland" — 
because that in actual fact was what had hap- pened; Kaiser Wilhehn's embattled Germany had 
helped Com- rade Lenin to return. 

Krylenko retorted that he would not conduct a prosecution for slander (why not?), and that the 
newspaper was on trial /or attempting to influence people's minds! (And how could any newspaper 
dare have such a purpose!?) 

The formal charge did not include Savinkov's phrase: "One has to be criminally insane to affirm 
seriously that the interna- tional proletariat will come to our aid" — because it still would come to our 
aid. 

For attempting to influence people's minds, the newspaper, which had been published since 1864 and 
had survived the most fiercely reactionary periods — those of Loris-Melikov, Pobedo- nostsev, 
Stolypin, Kasso, and all the rest — was ordered closed down forever! And Yegorov, the editor — and 
this is a shameful thing to have to say — was given only three months of solitary — just as though we 
were in Greece or some such place. (It is not so shamefully lenient, however, if one stops to think 
that it was only 1918! And if the old man managed to survive, he would be imprisoned again, and 
many more times too! ) 

It may seem strange to us now, but it is a fact that in those thunderous years bribes were given and 
taken just as tenderly as they had been from time immemorial in Old Russia and as they will be in 
the Soviet Union from here to eternity. Bribery was particularly rife in the judicial organs. And, 
though we blush to say it, in the Cheka. The official histories in their red, gold- stamped bindings are 
silent about this, but the old folks and eye- witnesses remember that the fate of political prisoners in 
the first years of the Revolution, as distinct from Stalinist times, often depended on bribes: they were 
accepted uninhibitedly, and pris- oners were honestly released as a result. Although Krylenko picked 
out only a dozen cases for the five-year period his book covers, he reports two cases of bribery. Alas, 
even the Moscow Tribunal and the Supreme Tribunal squeezed their way through to perfection along 
a crooked path, muddied themselves in im- proprieties. 

B. The Case of the Three Interrogators of the Moscow Revtribunal — April, 1918 

In March, 1918, a speculator in gold bars named Beridze was arrested. His wife tried to find a way to 
ransom her husband, which was the accepted thing to do. Through a series of connec- tions she 
succeeded in getting to one of the interrogators, who brought two others in with him. Meeting 
secretly, they demanded a bribe of 250,000 rubles, but, after some bargaining, they re- duced it to 
60,000, half in advance. The deal was to be made through the lawyer Grin. Everything would have 
gone off without a fuss, as hundreds of similar deals had, and the case would have gotten into neither 
Krylenko's chronicle nor ours, nor even be- come a matter of concern to the Council of People's 
Commissars, had it not been that Beridze's wife began to get miserly, and brought Grin only 15,000 
as an advance payment, instead of 30,000. But the main thing was that, in consequence of female 
fickleness, she changed her mind overnight, decided her lawyer wasn't good enough for her, and 
went off the next morning to find another, the attorney Yakulov. It is not stated anywhere, but it was 
evidently Yakulov who decided to turn in the interrogators. 

It is of interest that all the witnesses in this trial, beginning with the unfortunate wife, tried to give 



testimony helpful to the accused and to befuddle the prosecution. (Which would have been 
impossible in a political trial!) Krylenko explained their conduct as the result of a narrow-minded, 
Philistine attitude, be- cause they felt like outsiders as far as the Revtribunal was con- cerned. (And 
might we ourselves be so audacious as to advance the philistine hypothesis that in the course of a 
year and a half the witnesses had already learned to be afraid o/the dictatorship of the proletariat? 
After all, it took a lot of nerve to turn in the interrogators of the Revtribunal. What would happen to 
you after that?) 

The accuser's line of argument is also of interest. After all, just a month earlier the defendants had 
been his associates, his comrades in arms, his assistants. They were people who had been inalienably 
dedicated to the interests of the Revolution, and one of them, Leist, was even "a stern accuser, 
capable of hurling thunder and lightning at anyone who attacked the foundations." What was he to 
say about them now? Where was he to look for the causes of their fall? (A bribe was not enough in 
itself.) And, of course, it is clear where he looked: in their pasts, in their biog- graphics! 

Declared Krylenko: "If we look closely" at this Leist, "we will find highly interesting information." 

This is intriguing. Was he an inveterate adventurer? No, but he was the son of a professor at Moscow 
University! And not an ordinary professor, but one who had survived twenty years of reaction by his 
indifference to political activity! (And who, notwithstanding that reaction, had been accepted by 
Krylenko as a consultant.) Was it surprising, then, that the son turned out to be a double-dealer? 

As for Podgaisky, he was the son of an official in the law courts . . . beyond doubt one of the 
reactionary, pogrom-organizing Black Hundreds; otherwise how could he have served the Tsar for 
twenty years? And the son, too, had prepared for a career in the law courts, but then the Revolution 
had come — and he had wormed his way into the Revtribunal. Just yesterday all this had been 
depicted in a very favorable light, but it had suddenly be- come repulsive! 

More repulsive than them both was, of course, Gugel. He had been a publisher. And what intellectual 

food had he been offer- ing the workers and peasants? He was "nourishing the broad masses with 
low-quality literature," not Marx but, instead, books by bourgeois professors with world-famous 
names. (And we shall soon encounter these professors as defendants too.) 

Krylenko is enraged and marvels at the kind of people who have sneaked into the tribunal. (Neither 
do we understand: What kind of people are the workers' and peasants' tribunals composed of? Why 
had the proletariat entrusted the task of striking down their enemies to people of this particular 
kind?) 

And as for Grin, the lawyer, a man with an "in" on the in- vestigating commission, who was quite 
able to get anybody off scot-free, he was a typical representative of that subspecies of the human 
race which Marx called "leeches on the capitalist structure" — a category including, in addition, all 
lawyers, gen- darmes, priests, and also . . . notaries. 

It appears that Krylenko spared no effort in demanding merci- lessly severe sentences, without 
reference to "the individual shad- ings of guilt." But some kind of lethargy, some sort of torpor, 
overcame the eternally vigorous tribunal, and it just barely man- aged to mumble six months in jail 
for the interrogators, and a fine for the lawyer. And only by avaiUng himself of the authority of the 
AU-Russian Central Executive Committee "to punish without limitation," did Krylenko, there in the 
Metropole, con- tinue to hang ten-year sentences on the interrogators and five on the lawyer, plus 
full confiscation of his property. Krylenko thundered on about vigilance, and he almost managed, but 
not quite, to get the title of Tribune he so coveted. 

We recognize that among the revolutionary masses at the time, as among our readers today, this 
unfortunate trial could not but undermine faith in the sanctity of the tribunal. And we there- fore 
proceed with even greater timidity to the next case, which concerned an even loftier institution. 



C. The Case of Kosyrev— February 15, 1919 



F. M. Kosyrev and his pals Libert, Rottenberg, and Solovyev had first served on the Commission for 
Supply of the Eastern Front (back before Kolchak, when the enemy forces were the armies of the 
Constituent Assembly). It was discovered that there they had found ways to siphon into their own 
pockets from seventy thousand to a million rubles at a time; they rode around on fine horses and 
engaged in orgies with the nurses. Their Com- mission had acquired a house and an automobile, and 
their major- domo lived it up in the Yar Restaurant. (We aren't accustomed to picturing 1918 in this 
Ught, but all this was in the testimony of the Revtribunal. ) 

But none of this, to be sure, was the case against them. No charge had been brought against any of 
them in connection with their activities on the Eastern Front; they had even been forgiven all that. 
But wonder of wonders ! Hardly had their Commission for Supply been disbanded than all four of 
them, with the addition of Nazarenko, a former Siberian tramp and convict pal of Kosyrev in 
criminal hard labor, were invited to constitute ... the Control and Auditing Collegium of the 
VChK— the Cheka! 

Here's what this Collegium was: it had plenipotentiary powers to verify the legality of the actions of 
all the remaining organs of the Cheka, the right to demand and review any case at any stage of its 
processing, and to reverse the decisions of all the remaining organs of the VChK, excepting only the 
Presidium of the Cheka!" This was no small thing. This Collegium was second- in-command in the 
Cheka after the Presidium itself — it ranked immediately below Dzerzhinsky-Uritsky-Peters-Latsis- 
Menzhin- sky-Yagoda! 

The way of life of this comradely group remained just what it had been before. They didn't get 
swelled heads; they didn't get carried away. With certain individuals named Maximych, Lenka, 
Rafailsky, and Mariupolsky, "who had no connection at all with the Communist Party," they set 
up — in private apartments and in the Hotel Savoy — "lavish establishments where card games with 
table stakes as high as a thousand rubles a throw were the order of the day, along with heavy 
drinking and women." Kosyrev acquired a rich establishment of his own (costing 70,000 rubles) and, 
in fact, did not even draw the line at hauling off silver spoons and goblets, and even ordinary 
glassware, from the Cheka. (And how did all these objects get to the Cheka? ) "And this was where 
his attention was concentrated, rather than in the direction of ideas and ideology, and this was what 
he took from the revolu- tionary movement." (In the very act of repudiating the bribes he had 
accepted, this leading Chekist, without blinking, volunteered the lie that he possessed 200,000 rubles 
from an inheritance in a Chicago bank! Evidently, as far as he was concerned, there was no conflict 
between such a circumstance and world revolution!) 

Now how did he propose to make proper use of his super- human right to arrest anyone at all and 
release anyone at all? Clearly, one had to find a fish with golden roe — and in 1918 there were not a 
few such fish in the nets. (After all, the Revolu- tion had been carried out too quickly; they hadn't 
found every- thing — how many precious stones, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings the 
bourgeois ladies had managed to hide away!) Then one had to make contact with the relatives of 
those who had been arrested through some reliable middleman. 

Such characters also pass before us at the trial. There was Us- penskaya, a woman of twenty-two. 
She had graduated from the St. Petersburg Gymnasium, but hadn't gone on to the university — the 
Soviets had come to power — and so, in the spring of 1918, Uspenskaya appeared at the Cheka to 
offer her services as an in- former. She qualified on the basis of her appearance, and they accepted 
her. 

Krylenko has this to say about informing, which in those days had a different label: "For ourselves, 
we see nothing shameful in it, we consider this to be our duty . . . the work itself is not dis- graceful; 
once a person admits that this work is necessary in the interests of the Revolution, then he must do 



it." But, alas, it turned out that Uspenskaya had no political credo! That's what was awful. She 
declared: "I agreed in order to be paid a fixed percentage" on the cases which were turned up, and, 
beyond that, "to split 50-50" with someone else . . . whom the court protected and instructed her not 
to identify. Krylenko put it in his own words: "Uspenskaya was not a staff member of the Cheka but 
worked at piece rates." And, incidentally, the accuser, under- standing her in a very human way, 
explains that she had grown used to having plenty of money, and that her insignificant salary of 500 
rubles from the Supreme Council of the Economy was nothing at all, considering that one exercise in 
extortion — for example, helping a merchant get the seal removed from his store — would net her 
5,000 rubles, and another — from Meshcherskaya-Grevs, wife of a prisoner — would bring in 17,000. 
For that matter, Uspenskaya served only briefly as a mere stool pigeon. Thanks to the help of certain 
big Chekists, in a few months she became a member of the Communist Party and an interrogator. 

However, we don't seem to be getting to the essence of the case. Uspenskaya had arranged a meeting 
between this Meshch- erskaya-Grevs and a certain Godelyuk, a bosom pal of Kosyrev, in order to 
reach an agreement on her husband's ransom. (They had initially demanded 600,000 rubles!) But 
unfortunately, by some still unexplained means, the arrangements for that secret meeting became 
known to the same attorney, Yakulov, who had already done in the three bribe-taking interrogators 
and who, evidently, felt a class hatred for the whole proletarian system of judicial and extrajudicial 
processing. Yakulov denounced them to the Moscow Revtribunal, and the presiding judge of the 
tribunal, recalling perhaps the wrath of the Council of People's Commissars in connection with the 
three interrogators, also blundered in terms of class premises. 

[In order to temper the reader's indignation against this leechlike snake, Yakulov, we should point 
out that by the time of Kosyrev's trial he had already been arrested and was in custody. They had 
found a case to take care of him. He was brought in to testify accompanied by convoy, and we are 
certainly entitled to hope that he was shot soon afterward. (Today we are surprised: How did things 
reach such a pitch of illegality? Why did no one mount an offensive against it?)] 

Instead of simply warning Comrade Dzerzhinsky and working it all out in the family, he hid a steno- 
grapher behind the curtain. And the stenographer took down all Godelyuk's references to Kosyrev, 
and to Solovyev and to other commissars, and all his stories about who in the Cheka takes how many 
thousands. Then, as per the stenographic record, Godelyuk received an advance payment of 12,000 
rubles, and Meshcher- . skaya-Grevs was given a pass to enter the Cheka that had already been filled 
out by the Control and Auditing Collegium, by Libert and Rottenberg. (The bargaining was to 
continue there, inside the Cheka.) Then and there Godelyuk was caught! In his con- fusion, he gave 
testimony against them! (And Meshcherskaya- Grevs had already gotten to the Control and Auditing 
Collegium, and they had already ordered her husband's case transferred there /or verification.) 

But just a moment! After all, an expose like this sullies the heavenly blue uniforms of the Cheka! 
Was the presiding judge of the Moscow Revtribunal in his right mind? Was he really tending to his 
own business? 

But it turns out that that was the nature of the moment — a moment totally hidden from us in the folds 
of our majestic history! It seems that the Cheka's first year of work had produced a some- what 
repellent impression even on the Party of the proletariat, which still hadn't gotten used to it. Only its 
first year had passed; the Cheka had taken only the first step on its glorious path; and already, as 
Krylenko writes, although not very clearly, a "dispute" had arisen "between the court and its 
functions and the extra- judicial functions of the Cheka ... a dispute which, at the time, split the Party 
and the workers' districts into two camps." And that is how the Kosyrev case could come up — 
whereas everything had gone smoothly before — and reach all the way up to the top- most level of the 
whole state apparatus. 

The Cheka had to be saved! Help! Save the Cheka! Solovyev asked the tribunal to allow him inside 
the Taganka Prison to visit Godelyuk (who, alas, was not in the Lubyanka) so as to chat with him. 



The tribunal declined the request. Then Solovyev managed to penetrate into Godelyuk's cell without 
the help of any tribunal, and — what a coincidence! — at that very point Godelyuk became seriously 
ill. ("One can hardly speak of evil intentions on Solovyev's part," Krylenko bows and scrapes.) 
Feeling the approach of death, Godelyuk shakily repented hav- ing slandered the Cheka and asked 
for a sheet of paper on which to write his recantation: it was all untrue; he had slandered Kosyrev 
and the other commissars of the Cheka, and everything the stenographer had taken down behind the 
curtain was also untrue! 

[Oh, how many themes we have here! Oh, where is Shakespeare? Solovyev passes through the walls, 
flickering shadows in the cell, Godelyuk recants with failing hand. And all we hear about the years 
of the Revolution in our plays and our films is the street singing of "Hostile Whirlwinds."] 

"And who filled out the passes for Meshcherskaya-Grevs?" Krylenko insisted. They hadn't 
materialized out of thin air, cer- tainly? No, the chief accuser "does not wish to say that Solovyev 
was an accessory in this case, because . . . because there is in- sufficient evidence," but he advances 
the hypothesis that "citizens still at liberty who were in danger of being caught with their hands in 
the till" might have sent Solovyev to the Taganka jail. 

This was the perfect time to question Libert and Rottenberg, and they were subpoenaed, but they 
didn't appear! Just like that! They didn't show up. They declined to. All right, in that case question 
Meshcherskaya-Grevs! And — can you imagine it? — this broken-down aristocrat, too, was so brazen 
as not to appear before the Revtribunal! And there was no way to force her to! Godelyuk had 
recanted — and was dying. Kosyrev refused to admit anything! Solovyev was not guilty of anything! 
So there was no one to question. 

What witnesses, on the other hand, did indeed appear before the tribunal, and of their own free will! 
The Deputy Chief of the Cheka, Comrade Peters. And even Feliks Edmundovich Dzer- zhinsky 
himself. He arrived in a state of alarm. His long, burning zealot's face confronted the tribunal — 
whose members sat with sinking hearts — and he testified passionately in defense of the totally 
innocent Kosyrev and his high moral, revolutionary, and professional qualities. This testimony, alas, 
has not been pre- served for us, but Krylenko refers to it this way: "Solovyev and Dzerzhinsky 
portrayed Kosyrev's wonderful qualites." (Alas, you careless shavetail, you! In twenty years' time, in 
the Lub- yanka, they are going to remind you of that trial! ) It is easy to guess what Dzerzhinsky 
could have said: that Kosyrev was an iron Chekist, merciless to their enemies; that he was a good 
comrade. A hot heart, a cool head, clean hands. 

And from the garbage heap of slander, the bronze knight Kosyrev rises before our eyes. Furthermore, 
his whole biography testifies to his remarkable will. Before the Revolution he was convicted several 
times — most often for murder. In the city of Kostroma, he was convicted of worming his way by 
deception into the house of an old woman named Smirnova and strangling her with his own hands; 
then of an attempt to kill his own father; and then of killing a comrade in order to use his passport. 
The rest of Kosyrev's convictions were for swindling, and in all he spent many years at hard labor. 
(One could understand his desire for a luxurious life.) And he had only been freed by the Tsarist 
amnesties. 

At that point, the stern and righteous voices of the major Chekists interrupted the chief accuser; they 
pointed out to him that those courts which had convicted Kosyrev were courts of the bourgeoisie and 
landowners and did not merit being noticed in our new society. But what happened? The shavetail, 
going overboard, poured forth from the chief accuser's rostrum a tirade so ideologically faulty that in 
our exposition of this harmonious series of cases tried by the tribunals, citing it is to strike a dis- 
cordant note. 

"If there was anything good in the old Tsarist court system, it was only trial by jury. . . . One could 
always have confidence in the jurors' decisions and a minimum of judicial error was to be found in 



them." 



It was all the more vexing to hear this sort of thing from Comrade Krylenko because just three 
months before, at the trial of the provocateur R. Malinovsky, a former favorite of the Com- munist 
Party leadership, who, notwithstanding his four criminal convictions in the past, had been co-opted 
into the Central Committee by the leadership and appointed to the Duma, the accusing power had 
taken an impeccable class stand. 

"Every crime is the result of a given social system, and in these terms criminal convictions under the 
laws of a capitalist society and in Tsarist times do not, in our eyes, constitute a fact branding a 
person with an indelible mark once and for all. . . . We know of many examples of persons in our 
ranks branded by such facts in the past, but we have never drawn the con- elusion that it was 
necessary to remove such a person from our milieu. A person who knows our principles cannot fear 
that the existence of previous criminal convictions in his record will jeopardize his being included in 
the ranks of the revolution- aries." 

That is how Comrade Krylenko could speak when in a Party vein. But in this other case, as a result 
of his mistaken judgment, the image of the knight in shining armor, Kosyrev, was being bespattered. 
And it created a situation in the tribunal wherein Comrade Dzerzhinsky was forced to say: "For just 
one second [Just one second!] the thought crossed my mind that citizen Kosyrev might be falling 
victim to the political passions which in recent times have blazed up around the Extraordinary 
Commis- sion. " 

And Krylenko suddenly took thought: "I do not wish, and I never have wished, that the present trial 

should turn into a trial of the Cheka rather than a trial of Kosyrev and Uspenskaya. Not only am I 
unable to desire such an outcome: I am obliged to fight against it with all available means!" And he 
went on: "The most responsible, honest, and self-controlled comrades were put at the head of the 
Extraordinary Commission, and they took on themselves the difficult task of striking down the 
enemy, even though this involved the risk of error. . . . For this the Revolution is obliged to say thank 
you. ... I underline this aspect so that ... no one can ever say to me later: 'He turned out to be an 
instrument of political treason!' "" (But that's what they will say!) 

What a razor edge the supreme accuser was walking! But he evidently had certain contacts, going 
back to his days in the underground, through which he learned how things were going to move on 
the morrow. This is conspicuous in several trials, and came out here too. At the beginning of 1919, 
there were certain trends toward saying: "It is enough! It is time to bridle the Cheka!" And this 
moment was "beautifully caught in Bukharin's essay, in which he said that revolutionary legality 
must give way to legalized revolutionary." 

Wherever you look you see dialectics! And Krylenko burst out: "The Revtribunal is being called on 

to replace the Extraor- dinary Commission." (To replace???) Meanwhile, it "must be ... no less 
fierce in implementing the system of terror, intimida- tion, and threat than was the Extraordinary 
Commission — ^the Cheka." 

Than it was? The past tense? Has he already buried it? Come now, you are going to replace it, and 
where are the Chekists supposed to go? Ominous days! That was reason enough to hurry to the 
tribunal, in a greatcoat down to one's heels, to testify as a witness. 

But perhaps your sources of information. Comrade Krylenko, are false? 

Yes, the heavens darkened over the Lubyanka in those days. And this whole book might have been 
very different. But I sup- pose that what happened was that iron Feliks Dzerzhinsky went to see 
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and talked it over and explained. And the skies cleared. And although two 
days later, on Feb- ruary 17, 1919, the Cheka was deprived of its judicial rights by special decree of 



the All-Russian Central Executive Committee — it was "not for long." 

Our day in court was further complicated by the fact that the objectionable Uspenskaya behaved 
abominably. From the de- fendants' bench she "threw mud at" leading Chekists who had not 
previously been touched by the trial, including Comrade Peters! (She turned out to have used his 
pure name in her black- mailing operations; she used to sit right in his office, without any ceremony, 
during his conversations with other intelligence agents.) Now she hinted at some dark 
prerevolutionary past of his in Riga. That's the kind of snake she had turned into in eight months, 
despite the fact that she had been with Chekists during those eight months! What was to be done 
with such a woman? Here Krylenko's position jibed completely with that of the Chekists : "Until a 
firm regime has been established, and we are a long way from that being the case [Are we 
really???] ... in the interests of the defense of the Revolution . . . there is not and cannot be any 
sentence for citizeness Uspenskaya other than her annihilation." He did not say "to be shot" — what 
he said was "annihilation"! But after all. Citizen Krylenko, she's just a young girl! Come on now, 
give her a "tenner," or maybe a "twenty- five," and maybe the system will be firmly established by 
then? How about it? But alas: "In the interests of society and of the Revolution there is no other 
answer, nor can there be one — and the question cannot be put any other way. In the given case, 
detention isn't going to bear any fruit!" 

She had sure rubbed the salt in. ... She knew too much. . . . 

And Kosyrev had to be sacrificed too. They shot him. It was for the health of the others. 

Can it really be that someday we will read the old Lubyanka archives? No, they will bum them. They 
already have. 

As the reader can see for himself, this was a very unimportant case. We didn't have to dwell on it. 
But here is a different one. 

D. The Case of the "Churchmen"— January 11-16, 1920 

This case, in Krylenko's opinion, is going to have a "suitable place in the annals of the Russian 
Revolution." Right there in the annals, indeed! It took one day to wring Kosyrev's neck, but in this 
case they dragged things out for five whole days. 

The principal defendants were: A. D. Samarin (a famous man in Russia, the former chief procurator 
of the Synod; a man who had tried to liberate the church from the Tsar's yoke, an enemy of Rasputin 
whom Rasputin had forced out of office); 

[But accuser Krylenko saw no difference whatever between Samarin and Rasputin.] 

Kuznetsov, Professor of Church Law at Moscow University; the Moscow archpriests Uspensky and 
Tsvetkov. (The accuser him- self had this to say about Tsvetkov: "An important public figure, 
perhaps the best that the clergy could produce, a philanthropist.") 

Their guilt lay in creating the "Moscow Council of United Parishes," which had in turn recruited, 
from among believers forty to eighty years old, a voluntary guard for the Patriarch (unarmed, of 
course), which had set up permanent day and night watches in his residence, who were charged with 
the responsi- bility, in the event of danger from the authorities to the Patriarch, of assembling the 
people by ringing the church alarm bells and by telephone, so that a whole crowd might follow 
wherever the Patriarch might be taken and beg — and there's your counter- revolution for you! — the 
Council of People's Commissars to re- lease him! 

What an ancient Russian — Holy Russian — scheme! To as- semble the people by ringing the alarm 



bells . . . and proceed in a crowd with a petition! 

And the accuser was astonished. What danger threatened the Patriarch? Why had plans been made to 
defend him? 

Well, of course, it was really no more than the fact that the Cheka had for two years been conducting 
extrajudicial reprisals against undesirables, the fact that only a short while before four Red Army 
men in Kiev had killed the Metropolitan, the fact that the Patriarch's "case had already been worked 
up and com- pleted, and all that remained was to bring it before the Rev- tribunal," and "it was only 
out of concern for the broad masses of workers and peasants, still under the influence of clerical 
propaganda, that we have left these, our class enemies, alone for the time being." How could 
Orthodox believers possibly be alarmed on the Patriarch's account? During those two years Patriarch 
Tikhon had refused to keep silent. He had sent messages to the People's Commissars, to the clergy, 
and to his flock. His messages were not accepted by the printers but were copied on typewriters (the 
first samizdat). They exposed the annihilation of the innocents, the ruin of the country. How, 
therefore, could anyone really be concerned for the Patriarch's life? 

A second charge was brought against the defendants. Through- out the country, a census and 
requisition of church property was taking place (this was in addition to the closing of monasteries 
and the expropriation of church lands and properties; in question here were liturgical vessels, cups, 
and candelabra). And the Council of Parishes had disseminated an appeal to believers to resist the 
requisition, sounding the alarm on the church bells. (And that was natural, after all! That, after all, 
was how they had defended the churches against the Tatars too!) 

And the third charge against them was their incessant, im- pudent dispatching of petitions to the 
Council of People's Com- missars for relief from the desecration of the churches by local authorities, 
from crude blasphemy and violations of the law which guaranteed freedom of conscience. Even 
though no action was taken on these petitions (according to the testimony of Bonch- Bruyevich, 
administrative officer of the Council of People's Com- missars), they had discredited the local 
authorities. 

Taking into consideration all the violations committed by these defendants, what punishment could 

the accuser possibly demand for these awful crimes? Will not the reader's revolutionary con- science 
prompt the answer? To be shot, of course. And that is just what Krylenko did demand — for Samarin 
and Kuznetsov. 

But while they were fussing around with these damned legal formalities, and listening to too many 
long speeches from too many bourgeois lawyers (speeches which "for technical reasons" we will not 
cite here), it turned out that capital punishment had been . . . abolished! What a fix! It just couldn't 
be! What had happened? It developed that Dzerzhinsky had issued this order to the Cheka (the 
Cheka, without capital punishment?). But had it been extended to the tribunals by the Council of 
People's Com- missars? Not yet. Krylenko cheered up. And he continued to de- mand execution by 
shooting, on the following grounds: 

"Even if we suppose that the consolidation of the Republic has removed the immediacy of threat 
from such persons, it seems nonetheless indubitable that in this period of creative effort ... a 
purge ... of the old turncoat leaders ... is required by revolu- tionary necessity." And further: "Soviet 
power is proud of the decree of the Cheka abolishing the death penalty." But this "still does not force 
us to conclude that the question of the abolition of capital punishment has been decided once and for 
all ... for the entire period of Soviet rule." 

That was quite prophetic! Capital punishment would return — and very soon too! After all, what a 
long line still remained to be rubbed out! (Yes, including Krylenko too, and many of his class 
brothers as well.) 



And, indeed, the tribunal was submissive and sentenced Samarin and Kuznetsov to be shot, but they 
did manage to tack on a recommendation for clemency: to be imprisoned in a con- centration camp 
until the final victory over world imperialism! (They would still be sitting there today!) And as for 
"the best that the clergy could produce" — his sentence was fifteen years, commuted to five. Other 
defendants as well were dragged into this trial in order to add at least a little substance to the charges. 
Among them were some monks and teachers of Zvenigorod, involved in the Zvenigorod affair in the 
summer of 1918, but for some reason not brought to trial for a year and a half (or they might have 
been, but were now being tried again, since it was expedient). 

That summer some Soviet officials had called on Father Superior Ion at the Zvenigorod monastery 
and ordered him ("Step lively there!") to turn over to them the holy relics of St. Savva. 

[Firguf, a former guards officer of the Tsar's household cavalry, who had "suddenly undergone a 
spiritual conversion, given all his goods to the poor, and entered a monastery, but I do not in fact 
know whether he actually did distribute his goods to the poor." Yes, and if one admits the possibility 
of spiritual conversion, what then remains of class theory?] 

The officials not only smoked inside the church and evidently be- hind the altar screen as well, and, 
of course, refused to take off their caps, but one of them took Savva's skull in his hands and be- gan 
to spit into it, to demonstrate that its sanctity was an illusion. And there were further acts of 
desecration. This led to the alarm bell being sounded, a popular uprising, and the killing of one or 
two of the officials. (The others denied having committed any acts of desecration, including the 
spitting incident, and Krylenko accepted their denials.) 

[But which of us doesn't remember similar scenes? My first memory is of an event that took place 
when I was, probably, three or four: The peaked- head (as they called the Chekists in their high- 
peaked Budenny caps) invaded a Kislovodsk church, sliced through the dumbstruck crowd of 
worshipers, and, in their pointed caps, went straight through the altar screen to the altar and stopped 
the service.] 

Were these officials the ones on trial now? No, the monks. 

We beg the reader, throughout, to keep in mind: from 1918 on, our judicial custom determined that 
every Moscow trial, except, of course, the unjust trial of the Chekists, was by no means an isolated 
trial of an accidental concatenation of cir- cumstances which had converged by accident; it was a 
landmark of judicial policy; it was a display- window model whose specifi- cations determined what 
product was good for the provinces too; it was a standard; it was like that one-and-only model 
solution up front in the arithmetic book for the schoolchildren to follow for themselves. 

Thus, when we say, "the trial of the churchmen," this must be understood in the multiple plural . . . 

"many trials." And, in fact, the supreme accuser himself willingly explains: "Such trials have rolled 
along through almost all the tribunals of the Republic." (What language!) They had taken place not 
long before in the tribunals in North Dvina, Tver, and Ryazan; in Saratov, Kazan, Ufa, 
Solvychegodsk, and Tsarevokokshaisk, trials were held of the clergy, the choirs, and the active 
members of the congrega- tion — representatives of the ungrateful "Orthodox church, liberated by the 
October Revolution." 

The reader will be aware of a conflict here: why did many of these trials occur earlier than the 

Moscow model? This is simply a shortcoming of our exposition. The judicial and the extrajudicial 
persecution of the liberated church had begun well back in 1918, and, judging by the Zvenigorod 
affair, it had already reached a peak of intensity by that summer. In October, 1918, Patriarch Tikhon 
had protested in a message to the Council of People's Commissars that there was no freedom to 
preach in the churches and that "many courageous priests have already paid for their preaching with 
the blood of martyrdom. . . . You have laid your hands on church property collected by generations 



of believers, and you have not hesitated to violate their posthumous intent." 

(The People's Commissars did not, of course, read the message, but the members of their 
administrative staff must have had a good laugh: Now they've really got something to reproach us 
with — posthumous intent! We sh-t on your ancestors! We are only interested in descendants.) "They 
are executing bishops, priests, monks, and nuns who are guilty of nothing, on the basis of 
indiscriminate charges of indefinite and vaguely counterrevolu- tionary offenses." True, with the 
approach of Denikin and Kolchak, this was stopped, so as to make it easier for Orthodox believers to 
defend the Revolution. But hardly had the Civil War begun to die down than they took up their 
cudgels against the church again, and the cases started rolling through the tribunals once more. In 
1920 they struck at the Trinity-St. Sergius Mona- stery and went straight to the holy relics of that 
chauvinist Sergius of Radonezh, and hauled them off to a Moscow museum. 

[The Patriarch cited Klyuchevsky: "The gates of the monastery of the Saint will shut and the ikon 
lamps will be extinguished over his sepulcher only when we shall have lost every vestige of that 
spiritual and moral strength willed to us by such great builders of the Russian land as Saint Sergius." 
Klyuchevsky did not imagine that the loss would occur almost in his own lifetime. The Patriarch 
asked for an appointment with the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, in the hope of 
persuading him not to touch the holy monastery and the relics ... for after all the church was 
separate from the state! The answer came back that the Chairman was occupied in discussing 
important business, and that the appointment could not be arranged for the near future. 

Nor for the distant future either.] 

The People's Commissariat of Justice issued a directive, dated August 25, 1920, for the liquidation of 
relics of all kinds, since they were a significant obstacle to the resplendent movement toward a new, 
just society. 

Pursuing further Krylenko's own selection of cases, let us also examine the case tried in the 
Verkhtrib — in other words, the Supreme Tribunal. (How affectionately they abbreviated words 
within their intimate circle, but how they roared out for us little insects: "Rise! The court is in 
session!") 

E. The Case of the "Tactical Center"— August 16-20, 1920 

In this case there were twenty-eight defendants present, plus additional defendants who were being 
tried in absentia because they weren't around. 

At the very beginning of his impassioned speech, in a voice not yet grown hoarse and in phrases 
illumined by class analysis, the supreme accuser informs us that in addition to the land- owners and 
the capitalists "there existed and there continues to exist one additional social stratum, the social 
characteristics of which have long since been under consideration by the repre- sentatives of 
revolutionary socialism. [In other words: to be or not to be?] This stratum is the so-called 
'intelligentsia.' In this trial, we shall be concerned with the judgment of history on the activity of the 
Russian intelligentsia" and with the verdict of the Revolution on it. 

The narrow limits of our investigation prevent our compre- bending exactly the particular manner in 
which the representa- tives of revolutionary socialism were taking under consideration the fate of the 
so-called intelligentsia and what specifically they were planning for it. However, we take comfort in 
the fact that these materials have been published, that they are accessible to everyone, and that they 
can be assembled in any required detail. Therefore, solely to understand the over-all atmosphere of 
the Republic, we shall recall the opinion of the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars in 
the years when all these tribunal sessions were going on. 



In a letter to Gorky on September 15, 1919 — which we have already cited — Vladimir Ilyich Lenin 
replied to Gorky's attempts to intercede in the arrests of members of the intelligentsia, among them, 
evidently, some of the defendants in this trial, and, com- menting on the bulk of the Russian 
intelligentsia of those years (the "close-to-the-Cadets intelligentsia"), he wrote: "In actual fact they 
are not [the nation's] brains, but shit." On another occasion he said to Gorky: "If we break too many 
pots, it will be its [the intelligentsia's] fault." If the intelligentsia wants justice, why doesn't it come 
over to us? "I've gotten one bullet from the intelligentsia myself." (In other words, from Kaplan.) 

On the basis of these feelings, he expressed his mistrust and hostility toward the intelligentsia: 
rotten-liberal; "pious"; "the slovenliness so customary among 'educated' people"; he be- lieved the 
intelligentsia was always shortsighted, that it had betrayed the cause of the workers. (But when had 
the intel- ligentsia ever sworn loyalty to the cause of the workers, the dictatorship of the workers?) 

This mockery of the intelligentsia, this contempt for the intel- ligentsia, was subsequently adopted 
with enthusiasm by the publicists and the newspapers of the twenties and was absorbed into the 
current of day-to-day life. And in the end, the members of the intelligentsia accepted it too, cursing 
their eternal thought- lessness, their eternal duality, their eternal spinelessness, and their hopeless 
lagging behind the times. 

And this was just! The voice of the accusing power echoed and re-echoed beneath the vaults of the 
Verkhtrib, returning us to the defendants' bench. 

"This social stratum . . . has, during recent years, undergone the trial of universal re-evaluation." Yes, 
yes, re-evaluation, as was so often said at the time. And how did that re-evaluation occur? Here's 
how: "The Russian intelligentsia which entered the crucible of the Revolution with slogans of power 
for the people [so, it had something to it after all!] emerged from it an ally of the black [not even 
White!] generals, and a hired [!] and obedient agent of European imperialism. The intelligentsia 
trampled on its own banners [as in the army, yes?] and covered them with mud." 

How, indeed, can we not cry out our hearts in repentance? 

How can we not lacerate our chests with our fingernails? 

And the only reason why "there is no need to deal out the death blow to its individual 
representatives" is that "this social group has outlived its time." 

Here, at the start of the twentieth century! What power of foresight! Oh, scientific revolutionaries! 
(However, the intel- ligentsia had to he, finished oj^ anyway. Throughout the twenties they kept 
finishing them off and finishing them off.) 

We examine with hostility the twenty-eight individual allies of the black generals, the hirelings of 
European imperialism. And we are especially aroused by the stench of the word Center. Now we see 
a Tactical Center, now a National Center, and now a Right Center. (And in our recollection of the 
trials of two decades. Centers keep creeping in all the time. Centers and Centers, Engineers' Centers, 
Menshevik Centers, Trotskyite- Zinovievite Centers, Rightist-Bukharinite Centers, but all of them 
are crushed, all crushed, and that is the only reason you and I are still alive.) Wherever there is a 
Center, of course, the hand of imperialism can be found. 

True, we feel a measure of relief when we learn that the Tactical Center on this occasion was not an 
organization; that it did not have: (1) statutes; (2) a program; (3) membership dues. So, what did it 
have? Here's what: They used to meet! (Goose-pimples up and down the back!) And when they met, 
they undertook to familiarize themselves with one another's point of view! (Icy chills!) 

The charges were extremely serious and were supported by the evidence. There were two (2) pieces 



of evidence to cor- roborate the charges against twenty-eight accused individuals. 

These were two letters from people who were not present in court because they were abroad: 
Myakotin and Fyodorov. They were absent, but until the October Revolution they had been members 
of the same committees as those who were present, a circum- stance that gave us the right to equate 
those who were absent with those who were present. And their letters dealt with their disagreements 
with Denikin on certain trivial questions: the peasant question (we are not told what these differences 
were, but they were evidently advising Denikin to give the land to the peasants) ; the Jewish question 
(they were evidently advising him not to return to the previous restrictions) ; the federated nationali- 
ties question (enough said: clear); the question of the structure of the government (democracy rather 
than dictatorship); and similar matters. And what conclusion did this evidence suggest? Very simple. 
It proved the fact of correspondence, and it also proved the agreement, the unanimity, of those 
present with Denikin! (Grrr! Grrrr!) 

But there were also direct accusations against those present: that they had exchanged information 
with acquaintances who lived in outlying areas (Kiev, for example) which were not under the control 
of the central Soviet authorities! In other words, this used to be Russia, let's say, but then in the 
interests of world revolution we ceded this one piece to Germany. And people continued to exchange 
letters. How are you doing there, Ivan Ivanich? Here's how things are going with us. N. M. Kishkin, 
a member of the Central Committee of the Cadets, was so brazen as to try to justify himself right 
from the defendants' bench: "A man doesn't want to be blind. He tries to find out everything he can 
about what's going on everywhere." 

To find out everything about what's going on everywhere? He doesn't want to be blind? Well, all one 
can say is that the accuser correctly described their actions as treason, treason to Soviet power! 

But their most heinous acts were something else again. In the midst of the Civil War they wrote 
books, composed memoranda and projects. Yes, as experts in constitutional law, financial science, 
economic relationships, the system of justice, and educa- tion, they wrote works! (And, as one might 
easily guess, their works were not based on earlier works by Lenin, Trotsky, and Bukharin.) 
Professor Kotlyarevsky wrote on the federal struc- ture of Russia; V. I. Stempkovsky on the agrarian 
question (no doubt, without collectivization); V. S. Muralevich on education in the future Russia; N. 
N. Vinogradsky on economics. And the (great) biologist N. K. Koltsov (who never received anything 
from the Motherland except persecution and execution) allowed all those bourgeois big shots to get 
together in his institute for their discussions. (N. D. Kondratyev was included here also. In 1931 he 
was condemned once and for all in connection with TKP — the fictitious Working Peasants Party. ) 

Our accuser's heart jumps right out of our chest, outrunning the sentence. Well, what punishment 
was adequate for these as- sistants to the general? Just one, of course — to be shot! That was not 
merely what the accuser demanded — it was the sentence of the tribunal. (Alas, it was later commuted 
to concentration camp until the end of the Civil War.) 

And indeed the defendants' guilt consisted in the fact that they hadn't sat in their own comers, 
sucking on their quarter- pound of bread; that "they had talked things over and reached agreements 
as to what the state structure should be after the fall of the Soviet regime." 

In contemporary scientific language, this is known as the study of the alternative possibility. 

The voice of the accuser thundered, but we hear some kind of crack in it. As if his eyes were 
searching the rostrum, looking for another piece of paper? A quotation, perhaps? Give it to him on 
tiptoe, quick, quick! Give him one at random! From some other trial? It's not important! Wasn't this 
the one, Nikolai Vasilyevich Krylenko? 

"For us ... the concept of torture inheres in the very fact of holding political prisoners in prison. ..." 



So that's it! It is torture to keep political prisoners in prison! And the accuser said so! What a 
generous view! A new jurispru- dence is arising! And further: 

". . . Struggle against the Tsarist government was second nature to them [the politicals] and not to 
struggle against Tsarism was something of which they were incapable." 

What's that? They were incapable of not studying alternative possibilities? Perhaps thinking was first 
nature to the intellectual? 

Alas, through stupidity, they had shoved the wrong quotation at him. Now wasn't that a mix-up for 
you! But Nikolai Vasilyevich was already off to the races. 

"And even j/the defendants here in Moscow did not lift a 

finger [and it looks very much as though that's the way it was] at such a moment, nevertheless . . . 
even a conversation over a teacup as to the kind of system that should replace the Soviet system, 
which is allegedly about to fall, is a counterrevolutionary act. . . . During the Civil War not only is 
any kind of action [against Soviet power] a crime . . . but the/ac? of inaction is also criminal. " 

Well, now everything is comprehensible, everything is clear. They are being sentenced to death — for 
inaction. For a cup of tea. 

The Petrograd intellectuals, for example, decided that in the event of Yudenich's taking the city, they 
would first of all "con- cem themselves with convening a democratic municipal Duma." (In other 
words, to safeguard the city against a possible dictator- ship.) 

Krylenko: "I would like to shout at them: 'It was your duty to think first of all how you might die in 
battle, so as not to allow Yudenich into the city!' " 

But they didn't die in battle. 

(Nor, in fact, did Nikolai Vasilyevich Krylenko.) 

In addition, there were certain defendants who knew about all this talk and yet kept silent, did not 
write denunciations. (In our contemporary lingo: "He knew, but he didn't tell.") 

And here is another real example not merely of inaction but of actively criminal action. Through L. 

N. Khrushcheva, a member of the Political Red Cross (and there she was, on the defendants' bench), 
some of the other defendants had raised money to help the Butyrki prisoners . (One can just picture 
that flood of capital — pouring into the prison commissary! ) And they had supplied various articles 
too. (Yes, indeed. Just look. Woolens, too, perhaps?) 

There were no bounds to their evil-doing! Nor would there be any limits to their proletarian 
punishment! 

As when a cinema projector starts slowing down, twenty-eight prerevolutionary male and female 
faces flicker past us in a film that's fuzzy and askew. We didn't notice their expressions! Were they 
frightened? Contemptuous? Proud? 

We don't have their answers! Their last words are missing — 

because of "technical considerations." But, making up for this lack, the accuser croons to us: "From 
beginning to end, it was self-flagellation and repentance for the mistakes they committed. The 
political instability and the interim nature of the Intel- Ugentsia . . . [yes, yes, here comes another 



one: interim nature] completely justified that Marxist evaluation of the intelligentsia made by the 
Bolsheviks." 

I don't know. Perhaps they did engage in self-flagellation. Perhaps they didn't. Perhaps the passion to 
save one's life at any cost had already come into being. Perhaps the old dignity of the intelligentsia 
had still been maintained. ... I don't know. 

Who was that young woman flashing past? 

That was Tolstoi's daughter, Alexandra. Krylenko asked her: "What did you do during these 
conversations?" And she an- swered: "I attended to the samovar." Three years of concentra- tion 
camp! 

And who was that man over there? His face was familiar. It was Savva Morozov. But listen here: 
after all, he gave the Bolsheviks all that money! And now he has handed a little to these people? 
Three years in prison, but released on probation. Let that be a lesson to him! 

[He would soon cut his own throat.] 

And that's how the sun of our freedom rose. It was as just such a well-nourished little imp that our 
Octobrist child — Law — began to grow. 

Today we don't remember this at all. 

Chapter 9 

The Law Becomes a Man 

Our review has already grown. Yet we have in fact hardly begun. All the big and famous trials are 
still ahead of us. But their basic lines have already been indicated. 

So let us stick with our Law while it is still in its boy scout stage. 

Let us recall one long -forgotten case which was not even political. 

F. The Case of Glavtop— May, 1921 

This case was important because it involved engineers — or, as they had been christened in the 
terminology of the times, "specialists," or spetsy. (Glavtop was the Main Fuels Committee.) 

Nineteen twenty-one was the most difficult of all the four winters of the Civil War; nothing was left 
for fuel, and trains simply couldn't get to the next station; and there were cold and famine in the 
capitals, and a wave of strikes in the factories- strikes which, incidentally, have been completely 
wiped out of our history books by now. Who was to blame? That was a famous question: Who is to 
blame? 

Well, obviously, not the Over- All Leadership. And not even the local leadership. That was 
important. If the "comrades who were often brought in from outside" — i.e., the Communist leaders 
— did not have a correct grasp of the business at hand, then it was the engineers, or spetsy, who were 
supposed to "outline for them the correct approach to the problem." And this meant that "it was not 
the leaders who were to blame. . . . Those who had worked out the calculations were to blame, those 
who had re- figured the calculations, those who had calculated the plan" — which consisted of how 
to produce food and heat with zeros. Those to blame weren't the ones who compelled but the ones 
who calculated! If the planning turned out to be inflated, the spetsy were the ones to blame. Because 



the figures did not jibe, "this was the fault of the spetsy, not of the Council of Labor and Defense" 
and "not even of the responsible men in charge of Glavtop — the Main Fuels Committee." 

If there was no coal, firewood, or petroleum, it was because the spetsy had "brought about a mixed- 
up, chaotic situation." And it was their own fault that they hadn't resisted the urgent telephonograms 
from Rykov and the government — and had issued and allotted fuels outside the scope of the plan. 

The spetsy were to blame for everything. But the proletarian court was not merciless with them. 
Their sentences were lenient. Of course, an inner hostility to those cursed spetsy remains in 
proletarian hearts — but one can't get along without them; every- thing goes to rack and ruin. And the 
tribunal doesn't persecute them, and Krylenko even says that from 1920 on "there is no question of 
any sabotage." The spetsy are to blame, but not out of malice on their part; it's simply because they 
are inept; they aren't able to do any better; under capitalism, they hadn't learned to work, or else they 
were simply egotists and bribe-takers. 

And so, at the beginning of the reconstruction period, a sur- prising tendency toward leniency could 
be observed in regard to the engineers. 

The year 1922, the first year of peace, was rich in public trials, so rich that almost this entire chapter 
will be devoted to that year alone. (People are surprised: the war has ended, and yet there is an 
increase in court activity? But in 1945, too, and in 1948, the Dragon became very, very energetic. Is 
there not, per- haps, a simple sort of law in this?) 

Although in December, 1921, the Ninth Congress of the Soviets decreed that the authority of the 
Cheka be narrowed and, in consequence, its authority was indeed narrowed and it was renamed the 
GPU, as early as October, 1922, the powers of the GPU were broadened again, and in December 
Dzerzhinsky told a Pravda correspondent: "Now we need to keep watch with particular vigilance 
over anti-Soviet currents and group- ings. The GPU has reduced its apparatus but strengthened it in 
terms of quality." 

And, at the beginning of 1922, we must not bypass: 

G. The Case of the Suicide of Engineer Oldenborger (Tried before the Verkhtrib — the 
Supreme Tribunal — in February, 1922) 

This case is forgotten, insignificant, and totally atypical. It was atypical because its entire scale was 
that of a single life that had already ended. And if that life hadn't ended, it would have been that very 
engineer, yes, and ten more with him, forming a Center, who would have sat before the Verkhtrib; in 
that event the case would have been altogether typical. But as it was, an outstanding Party comrade, 
Sedelnikov, sat on the defendants' bench and, with him, two members of the RKI — the Workers' and 
Peasants' Inspection — and two trade-union officials. 

But, like Chekhov's far-off broken harp-string, there was something plaintive in this trial; it was, in 
its own way, an early predecessor of the Shakhty and Promparty trials. 

V. V. Oldenborger had worked for thirty years in the Moscow water-supply system and had 
evidently become its chief engineer back at the beginning of the century. Even though the Silver Age 
of art, four State Dumas, three wars, and three revolutions had come and gone, all Moscow drank 
Oldenborger's water. The Acmeists and the Futurists, the reactionaries and the revolution- aries, the 
military cadets and the Red Guards, the Council of People's Commissars, the Cheka, and the 
Workers' and Peasants' Inspection — all had drunk Oldenborger's pure cold water. He had never 
married and he had no children. His whole life had consisted of that one water-supply system. In 
1905 he refused to permit the soldiers of the guard near the water-supply conduits — "because the 
soldiers, out of clumsiness, might break the pipes or machinery." On the second day of the February 



Revolution he said to his workers that that was enough, the revolution was over, and they should all 
go back to their jobs; the water must flow. And during the October fighting in Moscow, he had only 
one concern: to safeguard the water-supply system. His col- leagues went on strike in answer to the 
Bolshevik coup d'etat and invited him to take part in the strike with them. His reply was: "On the 
operational side, please forgive me, I am not on strike. ... In everything else, I — well, yes, I am on 
strike." He accepted money for the strikers from the strike committee, and gave them a receipt, but 
he himself dashed off to get a sleeve to repair a broken pipe. 

But despite this, he was an enemy! Here's what he had said to one of the workers: "The Soviet 
regime won't last two weeks." (There was a new political situation preceding the announcement of 
the New Economic Policy, and in this context Krylenko could allow himself some frank talk before 
the Verkhtrib: "It was not only the spetsy who thought that way at the time. That is what we 
ourselves thought more than once. ") 

But despite this, Oldenborger was an enemy! Just as Comrade Lenin had told us: to keep watch over 
the bourgeois specialists we need a watchdog — the RKI — the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection. 

They began by assigning two such watchdogs to Oldenborger on a full-time basis. (One of them, 
Makarov-Zemlyansky, a swindler and a former clerk in the water system, had been fired "for 
improper conduct" and had entered the service of the RKI "because they paid better." He got 
promoted to the Central People's Commissariat because "the pay there was even better"- and, from 
that height, he had returned to check up on his former chief and take hearty vengeance on the man 
who had wronged him.) Then, of course, the local Party committee — that match- less defender of the 
workers' interests — wasn't dozing either. And Communists were put in charge of the water system. 
"Only workers are to hold the top positions; there are to be only Communists at leadership level; and 
the wisdom of this view was confirmed by the given trial." 

The Moscow Party organization also kept its eyes on the water- supply system. (And behind it stood 
the Cheka.) "In our own time we built our army on the basis of a healthy feeling of class enmity; in 
its name, we do not entrust even one responsible posi- tion to people who do not belong to our camp, 
without assigning them ... a commissar." And so, they all immediately began to order the chief 
engineer about, to supervise him, to give him instructions, and to shift the engineering personnel 
around with- out his knowledge. ("They broke up the whole nest of business- men.") 

But they did not, even so, safeguard the water-supply system. Things didn't go better with it, but 
worse! So slyly had that gang of engineers contrived to carry out an evil scheme. Even more: 
overcoming his intellectual's interim nature, as a result of which he had never in his life expressed 
himself sharply, Oldenborger made so bold as to describe as stupid stubbornness the actions of the 
new chief of the water-supply system, Zenyuk (to Kry- lenko, "a profoundly likable person on the 
basis of his internal structure"). 

It was at this point that it became clear that "engineer Olden- borger was consciously betraying the 
interests of the workers and that he was a direct and open enemy of the dictatorship of the working 
class." They started bringing inspection commissions into the water-supply system, but the 
commissions found that everything was in good order and that water was being supplied on a normal 
basis. The RKI men, the "rabkrinovtsy," refused to be satisfied with this. They kept pouring report 
after report into the RKI. Oldenborger simply wanted to "ruin, spoil, break down the water-supply 
system for political purposes," but he was unable to. Well, they put what obstacles in his way that 
they could; they prevented wasteful boiler repairs and replacing the wooden tanks with concrete 
ones. At meetings of the water-supply-system workers, the leaders began saying openly that their 
chief engineer was the "soul of organized technical sabotage" and that he should not be believed, that 
he should be resisted at every point. 

Despite all this, the operation of the water-supply system not only didn't improve, but deteriorated. 



What was particularly offensive to the "hereditary proletarian psychology" of the officials of the 
Workers' and Peasants' Inspec- tion and of the trade unions was that the majority of the workers at 
the pumping stations "had been infected with petty-bourgeois psychology" and, unable to recognize 
Oldenborger's sabotage, had come to his defense. At this point, elections to the Moscow Soviet were 
being held and the workers nominated Oldenborger as the candidate of the water-supply system, 
against whom, of course, the Party cell backed its own Party candidate. However, this turned out to 
be futile because of the chief engineer's fraudulent authority with the workers. Nonetheless, the Party 
cell brought up the question with the District Party Committee, on all levels, and announced at a 
general meeting that "Oldenborger is the center and soul of sabotage, and will be our political enemy 
in the Moscow Soviet!" The workers responded with an uproar and shouts of "Untrue! Lies!" And at 
that point the secretary of the Party Committee, Comrade Sedelnikov, flung right in the faces of the 
thousand-headed proletariat there: "I am not even going to talk to such Black Hundred, reactionary 
pogrom-makers." That is to say: We'll talk to you somewhere else. 

Party measures were also taken: they expelled the chief engineer from — no less — the collegium for 
administration of the water system, and kept him under constant investigation; con- tinually 
summoned him before a multitude of commissions and subcommissions; kept interrogating him and 
giving him as- signments that were to be urgently carried out. Every time he failed to appear, it was 
entered in the record "in case of a future trial." And through the Council of Labor and Defense 
(Chair- man — Comrade Lenin) they got an "Extraordinary Troika" appointed to the water system. (It 
consisted of representatives of the RKI, the Council of Trade Unions, and Comrade Kuibyshev.) 

And for the fourth year the water kept right on flowing through the pipes. And Moscovites kept on 
drinking it and didn't notice anything wrong. 

Then Comrade Sedelnikov wrote an article for the newspaper Ekonotnicheskaya Zhizn: "In view of 
the rumors disturbing the public in regard to the catastrophic state of the water mains ..." and he 
reported many new and alarming rumors — even that the water system was pumping water 
underground and was intention- ally washing away the foundations of all Moscow. " (Set there by 
Ivan Kalita in the fourteenth century.) They summoned a Commission of the Moscow Soviet. The 
Commission found that the "state of the water system was satisfactory and that its techni- cal 
direction was efficient." Oldenborger denied all the accusa- tions. And then Sedelnikov placidly 
declared: "I had set myself the task of stirring up a fuss about this matter in order to get the question 
of the spetsy taken up." 

What remained for the leaders of the workers to do at this point? What was the final, infallible 
method? A denunciation to the Cheka! Sedelnikov resorted to just that! He "painted a picture of the 
conscious wrecking of the water system by Oldenborger." He did not have the slightest doubt that "a 
counterrevolutionary organization" existed "in the water system, in the heart of Red Moscow." And, 
furthermore, a catastrophic situation at the Ruble vo water tower! 

At this point, Oldenborger was guilty of a tactless act of rude- ness, the outburst of a spineless, 
interim intellectual. They had refused to authorize his order for new boilers from abroad — and at the 
time, in Russia, it was quite impossible to fix the old ones. So Oldenborger committed suicide. (It 
had been just too much for one man — after all, he hadn't undergone the condition- ing for that sort of 
thing.) 

The cause was not lost, however. They could find a counter- revolutionary organization without him. 
RKI men would now undertake to expose the whole thing. Some concealed maneuver- ing went on 
for two months. But such was the spirit at the beginning of the NEP that "a lesson had to be taught 
both one side and the other." So there was a trial in the Supreme Tribunal. Krylenko was moderately 
severe. Krylenko was moderately merci- less. He was understanding: "The Russian worker, of 
course, was right to see in every person not of his own class someone more likely to be an enemy 
than a friend." Nevertheless: "Given the further change in our practical and general policy, perhaps 



we must be prepared for still greater concessions, for retreating and maneuvering. Perhaps the Party 
will be forced to adopt a tactical program of action which the primitive logic of honest, dedicated 
warriors is going to protest." 

Well, it's a fact, the workers who testified against Comrade Sedelnikov and the RKI men were 
"easily brushed off" by the tribunal. And the defendant Sedelnikov replied brazenly to the threats of 
the accuser. "Comrade Krylenko! I know all those articles. But after all, no one is judging class 
enemies here, and those articles relate to class enemies." 

However, Krylenko laid it on good and thick. Deliberately false denunciations to state institutions ... 
in circumstances aggravating guilt, such as a personal grudge and the settling of personal accounts ... 
the abuse of an official position . . . political irresponsibility . . . abuse of power and of the authority 
of govern- ment officials and members of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) . . . 
disorganization of the work of the water- supply system . . . injury done the Moscow Soviet and 
Soviet Russia, because there were few such specialists, and it was im- possible to find replacements 
for them. "And we won't even begin to speak of the individual, personal loss. ... In our time, when 
struggle is the chief content of our lives, we have somehow grown used to not counting these 
irrevocable losses." The Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal must utter its weighty word: "Punishment 
must be assessed with all due severity! . . . We didn't come here just to crack jokes." 

Good Lord, now what are they going to get? Could it really be? My reader has gotten used to 
prompting: all of them to be sh 

And that is absolutely correct. All of them were to be publicly shamed — bearing in mind their 
sincere repentance! All of them to be sentenced to — ostracism and ridicule. 

Two truths . . . 

And Sedelnikov, allegedly, got one year in jail. 
You will just have to forgive me if I don't believe it. 

Oh, you bards of the twenties, painting your pictures of their bright and bubbling happiness! Even 
those who touched only their farthest edge, who touched them only in childhood, will never forget 
them. And those plug-uglies, those fat faces, busy per- secuting engineers — in the twenties, too, they 
ate their bellies full. And now we see also that they had been busy from 1918 on. In the two trials 
following we will take leave of our favorite supreme accuser for a while: he is occupied with his 
preparations for the major trial of the SR's. 

[The provincial trials of the SR's took place even earlier, such as the one in Saratov in 1919.] 

This spectacular trial aroused a great deal of emotion in Europe beforehand, and the People's 
Commissariat of Justice was suddenly taken aback: after all, we had been trying people for four 
years without any code, neither a new one nor an old one. And in all probability Krylenko him- self 
was concerned about the code too. Everything had to be neatly tied up ahead of time. 

The coming church trials were internal. They didn't interest progressive Europe. And they could be 
conducted without a code. 

We have already had an opportunity to observe that the separa- tion of church and state was so 
construed by the state that the churches themselves and everything that hung in them, was in- stalled 
in them and painted in them, belonged to the state, and the only church remaining was that church 
which, in accordance with the Scriptures, lay within the heart. And in 1918, when political victory 
seemed to have been attained faster and more easily than had been expected, they had pressed right 



on to con- fiscate church property. However, this leap had aroused too fierce a wave of popular 
indignation. In the heat of the Civil War, it was not very intelligent to create, in addition, an internal 
front against the believers. And it proved necessary to postpone for the time being the dialogue 
between the Communists and the Christians. 

At the end of the Civil War, and as its natural consequence, an unprecedented famine developed in 
the Volga area. They give it only two lines in the official histories because it doesn't add a very 
ornamental touch to the wreaths of the victors in that war. But the famine existed nonetheless — to 
the point of cannibalism, to the point at which parents ate their own children — such a famine as even 
Russia had never known, even in the Time of Troubles in the early seventeenth century. (Because at 
that time, as the historians testify, unthreshed ricks of grain survived intact beneath the snow and ice 
for several years.) Just one film about famine might throw a new light on everything we saw and 
everything we know about the Revolution and the Civil War. But there are no films and no novels 
and no statistical re- search — the effort is to forget it. It does not embellish. Besides, we have come 
to blame the kulaks as the cause of every famine — and just who were the kulaks in the midst of such 
collective death? V. G. Korolenko, in his Letters to Lunacharsky (which, despite Lunacharsky's 
promise, were never officially published in the Soviet Union), explains to us Russia's total, epidemic 
descent into famine and destitution. 

[Published in Paris in 1922, and in the Soviet Union in samizdat in 1967.] 

It was the result of productivity having been reduced to zero (the working hands were all carrying 
guns) and the result, also, of the peasants' utter lack of trust and hope that even the smallest part of 
the harvest might be left for them. Yes, and someday someone will also count up those many 
carloads of food supplies rolling on and on for many, many months to Imperial Germany, under the 
terms of the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk — from a Russia which had been deprived of a protesting 
voice, from the very provinces where famine would strike — so that Germany could fight to the end 
in the West. 

There was a direct, immediate chain of cause and effect. The Volga peasants had to eat their children 
because we were so impatient about putting up with the Constituent Assembly. 

But political genius lies in extracting success even from the people's ruin. A brilliant idea was bom: 
after all, three billiard balls can be pocketed with one shot. So now let the priests feed the Volga 
region! They are Christians. They are generous! 

1. If they refuse, we will blame the whole famine on them and destroy the church. 

2. If they agree, we will clean out the churches. 

3. In either case, we will replenish our stocks of foreign ex- change and precious metals. 

Yes, and the idea was probably inspired by the actions of the church itself. As Patriarch Tikhon 
himself had testified, back in August, 1921, at the beginning of the famine, the church had created 
diocesan and all-Russian committees for aid to the starv- ing and had begun to collect funds. But to 
have permitted any direct help to go straight from the church into the mouths of those who were 
starving would have undermined the dictatorship of the proletariat. The committees were banned, 
and the funds they had collected were confiscated and turned over to the state treasury. The Patriarch 
had also appealed to the Pope in Rome and to the Archbishop of Canterbury for assistance — but he 
was rebuked for this, too, on the grounds that only the Soviet au- thorities had the right to enter into 
discussions with foreigners. Yes, indeed. And what was there to be alarmed about? The news- papers 
wrote that the government itself had all the necessary means to cope with the famine. 

Meanwhile, in the Volga region they were eating grass, the soles of shoes, and gnawing at door 



jambs. And, finally, in Decern- ber, 1921, Pomgol — the State Commission for Famine Relief — 
proposed that the churches help the starving by donating church valuables — not all, but those not 
required for liturgical rites. The Patriarch agreed. Pomgol issued a directive: all gifts must be strictly 
voluntary! On Febraury 19, 1922, the Patriarch issued a pastoral letter permitting the parish councils 
to make gifts of objects that did not have liturgical and ritual significance. 

And in this way matters could again have simply degenerated into a compromise that would have 
frustrated the will of the proletariat, just as it once had been by the Constituent Assembly, and still 
was in all the chatterbox European parliaments. 

The thought came in a stroke of lightning! The thought came — and a decree followed! A decree of 
the All-Russian Central Execu- tive Committee on February 26: all valuables were to be requisi- 
tioned from the churches — for the starving! 

The Patriarch wrote to Kalinin, who did not reply. Then on February 28 the Patriarch issued a new, 
fateful pastoral letter: from the church's point of view such a measure is sacrilege, and we cannot 
approve the requisition. 

From the distance of a half-century, it is easy to reproach the Patriarch. Of course, the leaders of the 
Christian church ought not to have been distracted by wondering whether other resources might not 
be available to the Soviet government, and who it was who had driven the Volga to famine. They 
ought not to have clung to those treasures, since the possibility of a new fortress of faith arising — if 
it existed at all — did not depend on them. But one has also to picture the situation of that unfortunate 
Patriarch, not elected to his post until after the October Revolution, who had for a few short years led 
a church that was always persecuted, restricted, under fire, and whose preservation had been 
entrusted to him. 

But right then and there a sure-fire campaign of persecution began in the papers, directed against the 
Patriarch and high church authorities who were strangling the Volga region with the bony hand of 
famine. And the more firmly the Patriarch clung to his position, the weaker it became. In March a 
movement to re- linquish the valuables, to come to an agreement with the govern- ment, began even 
among the clergy. Their still undispelled qualms were expressed to Kalinin by Bishop Antonin 
Granovsky, a mem- ber of the Central Committee of Pomgol: "The believers fear that the church 
valuables may be used for other purposes, more limited and alien to their hearts." (Knowing the 
general principles of our Progressive Doctrine, the experienced reader will agree that this was indeed 
very probable. After all, the Comintern's needs and those of the East in the course of being liberated 
were no less acute than those of the Volga.) 

The Petrograd Metropolitan, Veniamin, was similarly impelled by a mood of trust: "This belongs to 
God and we will give all of it by ourselves." But forced requisitions were wrong. Let the sacrifice be 
of our own free will. He, too, wanted verification by the clergy and the believers: to watch over the 
church valuables up to the very moment when they were transformed into bread for the starving. 
And in all this he was tormented lest he violate the censuring will of the Patriarch. 

In Petrograd things seemed to be working out peacefully. The atmosphere at the session of the 
Petrograd Pomgol on March 5, 1922, was even joyful, according to the testimony of an eye- witness. 
Veniamin announced: "The Orthodox Church is pre- pared to give everything to help the starving." It 
saw sacrilege only in forced requisition. But in that case requisition was un- necessary! Kanatchikov, 
Chairman of the Petrograd Pomgol, gave his assurances that this would produce a favorable attitude 
toward the church on the part of the Soviet government. (Not very likely, that!) In a burst of good 
feeling, everyone stood up. The Metropolitan said: "The heaviest burden is division and enmity. But 
the time will come when the Russian people will unite. I myself, at the head of the worshipers, will 
remove the cover [of precious metals and precious stones] from the ikon of the Holy Virgin of 
Kazan. I will shed sweet tears on it and give it away." He gave his blessing to the Bolshevik 



members of Pomgol and they saw him to the door with bared heads. The newspaper Petrogradskaya 
Pravda, in its issues of March 8, 9, and 10, confirmed the peaceful, successful outcome of the talks, 
and spoke favorably of the Metropolitan. 

[See the articles entitled "Tserkov i Golod" ("The Church and the Famine") and "Kakbudut izyaty 
tserkovnye tsennosti" ("How the Church Valuables Will Be Requisitioned").] 

"In Smolny they agreed that the church vessels and ikon coverings would be melted down into ingots 
in the presence of the believers." 

Again things were getting fouled up with some kind of com- promise! The noxious fumes of 
Christianity were poisoning the revolutionary will. That kind o/ unity and that way o/handing over 
the valuables were not what the starving people of the Volga needed! The spineless membership of 
the Petrograd Pomgol was changed. The newspapers began to howl about the "evil pastors" and 
"princes of the church," and the representatives of the church were told: "We don't need your 
donations! And there won't be any negotiations with you! Everything belongs to the government — 
and the government will take whatever it considers necessary." 

And so forcible requisitions, accompanied by strife, began in Petrograd, as they did everywhere else. 
And this provided the legal basis for initiating trials of the clergy. 

[I have taken this material from Ocherki po Istorii Tserkovnoi Smuty ( Essays on the History of the 
Troubles of the Church), by Anatoly Levitin, Part I, samizdat, 1962, and from the stenographic notes 
on the questioning of Patriarch Tikhon, Trial Record, Vol. V.] 

H. The Moscow Church Trial— April 26-May 7, 1922 

This took place in the Polytechnic Museum. The court was the Moscow Revtribunal, under Presiding 
Judge Bek; the prosecutors were Lunin and Longinov. There were seventeen defendants, including 
archpriests and laymen, accused of disseminating the Patriarch's proclamation. This charge was more 
important than the question of surrendering, or not surrendering, church valu- ables. Archpriest A. N. 
Zaozersky had surrendered all the valuables in his own church, but he defended in principle the 
Patriarch's appeal regarding forced requisition as sacrilege, and he became the central personage in 
the trial — and would shortly be shot. (All of which went to prove that what was important was not to 
feed the starving but to make use of a convenient opportu- nity to break the back of the church.) 

On May 5 Patriarch Tikhon was summoned to the tribunal as a witness. Even though the public was 
represented only by a carefully selected audience (1922, in this respect, differing little from 1937 and 
1968), nonetheless the stamp of Old Russia was still so deep, and the Soviet stamp was still so 
superficial, that on the Patriarch's entrance more than half of those present rose to receive his 
blessing. 

Tikhon took on himself the entire blame for writing and dis- seminating his appeal. The presiding 
judge of the tribunal tried to elicit a different line of testimony from him: "But it isn't pos- sible! Did 
you really write it in your own hand? All the lines? You probably just signed it. And who actually 
wrote it? And who were your advisers?" and then: "Why did you mention in the appeal the 
persecution to which the newspapers are subjecting you? [After all, they are persecuting you and 
why should we hear about it?] What did you want to express?" 

The Patriarch: "That is something you will have to ask the people who started the persecution: What 
objectives were they pursuing?" 

The Presiding Judge: "But that after all has nothing to do with religion!" 



The Patriarch: "It has historical significance." 

The Presiding Judge: "Referring to the fact that the decree was published while you were in the 
midst of talks with Pomgol, you used the expression, behind your back?" 

The Patriarch: "Yes." 

Presiding Judge: "You therefore consider that the Soviet gov- emment acted incorrectly?" 

A crushing argument! It will be repeated a million times more in the nighttime offices of 
interrogators! And we will never answer as simply and straightforwardly as: 

The Patriarch: "Yes." 

The Presiding Judge: "Do you consider the state's laws ob- ligatory or not?" 

The Patriarch: "Yes, I recognize them, to the extent that they do not contradict the rules of piety." 

(Oh, if only everyone had answered just that way! Our whole history would have been different.) 

A debate about church law followed. The Patriarch explained that if the church itself surrendered its 
valuables, it was not sacrilege. But if they were taken away against the church's will, it was. His 
appeal had not prohibited giving the valuables at all, but had only declared that seizing them against 
the will of the church was to be condemned. 

(But that's what we wanted — expropriation against the will of the church!) 

Comrade Bek, the presiding judge, was astounded: "Which in the last analysis is more important to 
you — the laws of the church or the point of view of the Soviet government?" 

(The expected reply: "The Soviet government.") 

"Very well; so it was sacrilege according to the laws of the church," exclaimed the accuser, "but 
what was it from the point of view of mercy?" 

(For the first and last time — for another fifty years — that banal word mercy was spoken before a 
tribunal.) 

Then there was a philological analysis of the word "svyato- tatstvo," meaning "sacrilege," derived 
from "svyato," meaning "holy," and "tat," meaning "thief." 

The Accuser: "So that means that we, the representatives of the Soviet government, are thieves of 
holy things?" 

(A prolonged uproar in the hall. A recess. The bailiffs at work.) 

The Accuser: "So you call the representatives of the Soviet government, the All-Russian Central 
Executive Committee, thieves?" 

The Patriarch: "I am citing only church law." 

Then there is a discussion of the term "blasphemy." While they were requisitioning the valuables 
from the church of St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, the ikon cover would not fit into a box, and at that 



point they trampled it with their feet. But the Patri- arch himself had not been present. 

The Accuser: "How do you know that? Give us the name o/the priest who told you that. [And we 
will arrest him immedi- ately!]" 

The Patriarch does not give the name. 

That means it was a lie! 

The Accuser presses on triumphantly: "No, who spread that repulsive slander?" 

The Presiding Judge: "Give us the names of those who trampled the ikon cover! [One can assume 
that after doing it they left their visiting cards!] Otherwise the tribunal cannot believe you!" 

The Patriarch cannot name them. 

The Presiding Judge: "That means you have made an unsub- stantiated assertion." 

It still remained to be proved that the Patriarch wanted to overthrow the Soviet government. And 
here is how it was proved: 

"Propaganda is an attempt to prepare a mood preliminary to preparing a revolt in the future." 
The tribunal ordered criminal charges to be brought against the Patriarch. 

On May 7 sentence was pronounced: of the seventeen defen- dants, eleven were to be shot. (They 
actually shot five.) 

As Krylenko said: "We didn't come here just to crack jokes." 

One week later the Patriarch was removed from office and arrested. (But this was not the very end. 
For the time being he was taken to the Donskoi Monastery and kept there in strict in- carceration, so 
that the believers would grow accustomed to his absence. Remember how just a short while before 
Krylenko had been astonished: what danger could possibly threaten the Patri- arch? Truly, when the 
danger really does come, there's no help for it, either in alarm bells or in telephone calls.) 

Two weeks after that, the Metropolitan Veniamin was arrested in Petrograd. He had not been a high 

official of the church before the Revolution. Nor had he even been appointed, like almost all 
Metropolitans. In the spring of 1917, for the first time since the days of ancient Novgorod the Great, 
they had elected a Metro- politan in Moscow and in Petrograd. A gentle, simple, easily accessible 
man, a frequent visitor in factories and mills, popular with the people and with the lower clergy, 
Veniamin had been elected by their votes. Not understanding the times, he had seen as his task the 
liberation of the church from politics "because it had suffered much from politics in the past." This 
was the Metro- politan who was tried in: 

I. The Petrograd Church Trial— June 9- July 5, 1922 

The defendants, charged with resisting the requisition of church valuables, numbered several dozen 
in all, including a professor of theology and church law, archimandrites, priests, and laymen. 
Semyonov, the presiding judge of the tribunal, was twenty-five years old and, according to rumor, 
had formerly been a baker. The chief accuser was a member of the collegium of the People's 
Commissariat of Justice, P. A. Krasikov — a man of Lenin's age and a friend of Lenin when he was in 
exile in the Krasnoyarsk region and, later on, in emigration as well. Vladimir Ilyich used to enjoy 
hearing him play the violin. 



Out on Nevsky Prospekt, and at the Nevsky turn-off, a dense crowd waited every day of the trial, and 
when the Metropolitan was driven past, many of them knelt down and sang: "Save, O Lord, thy 
people!" (It goes without saying that they arrested overzealous believers right on the street and in the 
court building also.) Most of the spectators in the court were Red Army men, but even they rose 
every time the Metropolitan entered in his white ecclesiastical hood. Yet the accuser and the tribunal 
called him an enemy of the people. Let us note that this term already existed. 

From trial to trial, things closed in on the defense lawyers, and their humiliating predicament was 
already very apparent. Kry- lenko tells us nothing about this, but the gap is closed by an eye- 
witness. The tribunal roared out a threat to arrest Bobrishchev- Pushkin himself — the principal 
defense lawyer — and this was already so in accord with the spirit of the times, and the threat was so 
real that Bobrishchev-Pushkin made haste to hand over his gold watch and his billfold to lawyer 
Gurovich. And right then and there the tribunal actually ordered the imprisonment of a witness. 
Professor Yegorov, because of his testimony on behalf of the Metropolitan. As it turned out, 
Yegorov was quite pre- pared for this. He had a thick briefcase with him in which he had packed 
food, underwear, and even a small blanket. 

The reader can observe that the court was gradually assuming forms familiar to us. 

Metropolitan Veniamin was accused of entering, with evil intent, into an agreement with ... the 

Soviet government, no less, and thereby obtaining a relaxation of the decree on the requisition of 
valuables. It was charged that his appeal to Pomgol had been maliciously disseminated among the 
people. (Samizdat! — self -publication!) And he had also acted in concert with the world bourgeoisie. 

Priest Krasnitsky, one of the principal "Living Church" schis- matics, and GPU collaborator, testified 
that the priests had con- spired to provoke a revolt against the Soviet government on the grounds of 
famine. 

The only witnesses heard were those of the prosecution. De- fense witnesses were not permitted to 
testify. (Oh, how familiar it all is! More and more!) 

Accuser Smimov demanded "sixteen heads." Accuser Krasikov cried out: "The whole Orthodox 
Church is a subversive organiza- tion. Properly speaking, the entire church ought to be put in 
prison." 

(This was a very realistic program. Soon it was almost realized. And it was a good basis for a 
dialogue.) 

Let us make use of a rather rare opportunity to cite several sentences that have been preserved from 
the speech of S. Y. Gurovich, who was the Metropolitan's defense attorney. 

"There are no proofs of guilt. There are no facts. There is not even an indictment. . . . What will 
history say? [Oh, he certainly had discovered how to frighten them! History will forget and say 
nothing!] The requisition of church valuables in Petrograd took place in a complete calm, but here 
the Petrograd clergy is on the defendants' bench, and somebody's hands keep pushing them toward 
death. The basic principle which you stress is the good of the Soviet government. But do not forget 
that the church will be nourished by the blood of martyrs. [Not in the Soviet Union, though!] There 
is nothing more to be said, but it is hard to stop talking. While the debate lasts, the defendants are 
alive. When the debate comes to an end, life will end too." 

The tribunal condemned ten of them to death. They waited more than a month for their execution, 
until the trial of the SR's had ended. (It was as though they had processed them in order to shoot 
them at the same time as the SR's.) And after that, VTsIK, the AU-Russian Central Executive 
Committee, pardoned six of them. And four of them — the Metropolitan Veniamin; the 



Archimandrite Sergius, a former member of the State Duma; Professor of Law Y. P. Novitsky; and 
the barrister Kovsharov — were shot on the night of August 12-13. 

We insistently urge our readers not to forget the principle of provincial multiplicity. Where two 
church trials were held in Moscow and Petrograd, there were twenty -two in the provinces. 

They were in a big hurry to produce a Criminal Code in time for the trial of the SR's — the Socialist 
Revolutionaries. The time had come to set in place the granite foundation stones of the Law. On May 
12, as had been agreed, the session of VTsIK convened, but the projected Code had not yet been 
completed. It had only just been delivered for analysis to Vladimir llyich Lenin at his Gorki estate 
outside Moscow. Six articles of the Code provided for execution by shooting as the maximum 
punishment. This was unsatisfactory. On May 15, on the margins of the draft Code, Lenin added six 
more articles requiring execution by shooting (including — under Article 69 — propaganda and 
agitation, par- ticularly in the form of an appeal for passive resistance to the government and mass 
rejection of the obligations of military service or tax payments). 

[In other words, like the Vyborg appeal, for which the Tsar's government had imposed sentences of 
three months' imprisonment.] 

And one other crime that called for execution by shooting: unauthorized return from abroad (my, 
how the socialists all used to bob back and forth incessantly!). And there was one punishment that 
was the equivalent of execu- tion by shooting: exile abroad. Vladimir llyich foresaw a time not far 
distant when there would be a constant rush of people to the Soviet Union from Europe, and it would 
be impossible to get anyone voluntarily to leave the Soviet Union for the West. Lenin went on to 
express his principal conclusion to the People's Commissar of Justice: 

"Comrade Kursky! In my opinion we ought to extend the use of execution by shooting (allowing the 
substitution of exile abroad) to all activities of the Mensheviks, SR's, etc. We ought to find a 
formulation that would connect these activities with the international bourgeoisie." (Lenin's italics.) 

To extend the use of execution by shooting! Nothing left to the imagination there! (And did they exile 
very many?) Terror is a method of persuasion. This, too, could hardly be misunderstood. 

But Kursky, nonetheless, still didn't get the whole idea. In all probability, what he couldn't quite 
work out was a way of formu- lating that formulation, a way of working in that very matter of 
connection. The next day, he called on the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, Lenin, 
for clarification. We have no way of knowing what took place during their conversation. But 
following it up, on May 17, Lenin sent a second letter from Gorki: 

COMRADE KURSKY! 

As a sequel to our conversation, I am sending you an outline of a supplementary paragraph for 

the Criminal Code The basic concept, I hope, is clear, notwithstanding all the 

shortcomings of the rough draft: openly to set forth a statute which is both principled and 
politically truthful (and not just juridically narrow) to supply the motivation for the essence 
and the justification of terror, its necessity, its limits. 

The court must not exclude terror. It would be self-deception or deceit to promise this, and in 
order to provide it with a foundation and to legalize it in a principled way, clearly and without 
hypocrisy and without embellishment, it is necessary to formulate it as broadly as possible, for 
only revolutionary righteousness and a revolutionary conscience will provide the conditions for 
applying it more or less broadly in practice. 



With Communist greetings. 



LENIN 



We will not undertake to comment on this important docu- ment. What it calls for is silence and 
reflection. 

The document is especially important because it was one of Lenin's last directives on this earth — he 
had not yet fallen ill — and an important part of his political testament. Ten days after this letter, he 
suffered his first stroke, from which he recovered only incompletely and temporarily in the autumn 
months of 1922. Perhaps both letters to Kursky were written in that light and airy white marble 
boudoir-study at the comer of the second floor, where the future deathbed of the leader already stood 
waiting. 

Attached to this letter is the rough draft mentioned in it, con- taining two versions of the 
supplementary paragraph, out of which would grow in a few years' time both Article 58-4 and all of 
our dear little old mother. Article 58. You read it and you are carried away with admiration: that's 
what it really means to formulate it as broadly as possible! That's what is meant by extending its use. 
You read and you recollect how broad was the embrace of that dear little old mother. 

". . . propaganda or agitation, or participation in an organiza- tion, or assistance (objectively assisting 
or being capable of assist- ing) . . . organizations or persons whose activity has the charac- ter ..." 

Hand me St. Augustine, and in a trice I can find room in that article for him too. 

Everything was inserted as required; it was retyped; execution by shooting was extended — and the 
session of the AU-Russian Central Executive Committee adopted the new Criminal Code shortly 
after May 20 and decreed it to be in effect from June 1, 1922, on. 

And so began, on the most legal basis, the two-month-long 

J. Trial of the SR's— June 8-August 7, 1922 

The court was the Supreme Tribunal, the Verkhtrib. The usual presiding judge. Comrade Karklin (a 
good name for a judge- derived from the word meaning to "croak" or "caw"), was re- placed for this 
important trial, which was being watched closely by the entire socialist world, by the resourceful 
Georgi Pyatakov. (Provident fate enjoys its little jokes — but it also leaves us time to think things 
over! It left Pyatakov fifteen years.) There were no defense lawyers. The defendants, all leading 
SR's, undertook their own defense. Pyatakov bore himself harshly, and interfered with the 
defendants' having their say. 

If my readers and I were not already sufficiently informed to know that what was important in every 
trial was not the charges brought nor guilt, so called, but expediency, we would perhaps not be 
prepared to accept this trial wholeheartedly. But expedi- ency works without fail: the SR's, as 
opposed to the Mensheviks, were considered still dangerous, not yet dispersed and broken up, not yet 
finished off. And on behalf of the fortress of the newly created dictatorship (the proletariat), it was 
expedient to finish them off. 

Someone unfamiliar with this principle might mistakenly view the entire trial as an act of Party 
vengeance. 

Involuntarily one ponders the charges set forth in this trial, placing them in the perspective of the 
long-drawn-out and still unfolding history of nations. With the exception of a very limited number of 
parliamentary democracies, during a very limited number of decades, the history of nations is 
entirely a history of revolutions and seizures of power. And whoever succeeds in making a more 
successful and more enduring revolution is from that moment on graced with the bright robes of 



Justice, and his every past and future step is legalized and memorialized in odes, whereas every past 
and future step of his unsuccessful enemies is criminal and subject to arraignment and a legal 
penalty. 

The Criminal Code had been adopted only one week earlier, but five whole years of 
postrevolutionary experience had been compressed into it. Twenty, ten, and five years earlier, the 
SR's had been the party next door in the effort to overthrow Tsarism, the party which had chiefly 
taken upon itself, thanks to the particular character of its terrorist tactics, the burden of hard- labor 
imprisonment, which had scarcely touched the Bolsheviks. 

Now the first charge against them was that the SR's had in- itiated the Civil War! Yes, they began it, 
they had begun it. They were accused of armed resistance to the October seizure of power. When the 
Provisional Government, which they supported and which was in part made up of their members, 
was lawfully swept out of office by the machine-gun fire of the sailors, the SR's tried altogether 
illegally to defend it, and even returned shot for shot, and even called into battle the military cadets 
of that deposed government. 

[The fact that their efforts in defending it were very feeble, that they were beset by hesitations, and 
that they renounced it right away is another matter. For all that, their guilt was no less.] 

Defeated in battle, they did not repent politically. They did not get down on their knees to the 
Council of People's Com- missars, which had declared itself to be the government. They continued 
to insist stubbornly that the only legal government was the one which had been overthrown. They 
refused to admit right away that what had been their political line for twenty years was a failure, 
[And it had indeed been a failure, although this did not become clear immediately.] and they did not 
ask to be pardoned, nor to have their party dissolved and cease to be considered a party. 

[In the same way, all the local Russian governments, and those in outly- ing areas, were illegal — 

those in Archangel, Samara, Ufa or Omsk, the Ukraine, the Don, the Kuban, the Urals or 
Transcaucasia — inasmuch as they all de- clared themselves to be governments after the Council of 
People's Commissars had declared itself to be the government.] 

The second charge against them was that they had deepened the abyss of the Civil War by taking 
part in demonstrations — by this token, rebellions — on January 5 and 6, 1918, against the lawful 
authority of the workers' and peasants' government. They were supporting their illegal Constituent 
Assembly (elected by universal, free, equal, secret, and direct voting) against the sailors and the Red 
Guards, who legally dispersed both the Assembly and the demonstrators. (And what good could have 
come of peaceable sessions of the Constituent Assembly? Only the con- flagration of a three-year- 
long Civil War. And that is why the Civil War began, because not all the people submitted simul- 
taneously and obediently to the lawful decrees of the Council of People's Commissars.) 

The third charge was that they had not recognized the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, that lawful, 
Ufesaving peace of Brest- Litovsk, which had cut off not Russia's head but only parts of its torso. By 
this token, declared the official indictment, there were present "all the signs of high treason and 
criminal activity directed to drawing the country into war." 

High treason! That is another club with two ends. It all de- pends on which end you have hold of. 

From this followed the serious fourth charge: in the summer and fall of 1918, those final months and 
weeks when the Kaiser's Germany was scarcely managing to hold its own against the Allies, and the 
Soviet government, faithful to the Brest treaty, was supporting Germany in its difficult struggle with 
trainloads of foodstuffs and a monthly tribute in gold, the SR's traitorously prepared (well, they 
didn't actually prepare anything but, as was their custom, did more talking about it than anything — 
but what if they really had!) to blow up the railroad tracks in front of one such train, thus keeping the 



gold in the Motherland. In other words, they "prepared criminal destruction of our public wealth, the 
railroads." 

(At that time the Communists were not yet ashamed of and did not conceal the fact that, yes, indeed, 
Russian gold had been shipped off to Hitler's future empire, and it didn't seem to dawn on Krylenko 
despite his study in two academic departments — history and law — nor did any of his assistants 
whisper the notion to him, that if steel rails are public wealth, then maybe gold ingots are too?) 

From this fourth charge a fifth followed inexorably: the SR's had intended to procure the technical 
equipment for such an explosion with money received from Allied representatives. (They had 
wanted to take money from the Entente in order not to give gold away to Kaiser Wilhelm.) And this 
was the extreme of treason! (Just in case, Krylenko did mutter something about the SR's also having 
connections with Ludendorff s General Staff, but this stone had indeed landed in the wrong vegetable 
garden, and he quickly dropped the whole thing.) 

From this it was only a very short step to the sixth charge: that the SR's had been Entente spies in 
1918. Yesterday they had been revolutionaries, and today they were spies. At the time, this 
accusation probably sounded explosive. But since then, and after many, many trials, the whole thing 
makes one want to vomit. 

Well, then, the seventh and tenth points concerned coUabora- tion with Savinkov, or Filonenko, or 
the Cadets, or the "Union of Rebirth" (had it really ever existed?), and even with aristocratic, 
reactionary, dilettante — so-called "white-lining" — students, or even the White Guards. 

This series of linked charges was well expounded by the prose- cutor. 

[The title of "prosecutor" had by now been restored to him.] 

As a result of either hard thinking in his office, or a sudden stroke of genius on the rostrum, he 
managed in this trial to come up with that tone of heartfelt sympathy and friendly criticism which he 
would make use of in subsequent trials with increasing self-assurance and in ever heavier doses, and 
which, in 1937, would result in dazzling success. This tone created a com- mon ground — against the 
rest of the world — between those doing the judging and those who were being judged, and it played 
on the defendant's particular soft spot. From the prosecutor's ros- trum, they said to the SR's: "After 
all, you and we are revolu- tionaries! [We! You and we — that adds up to us!] And how could you 
have fallen so low as to join with the Cadets? [Yes, no doubt your heart is breaking!] Or with the 
officers? Or to teach the aristocratic, reactionary, dilettante students your brilliantly worked-out 
scheme of conspiratorial operation?" 

None of the defendants' replies is available to us. Did any of them point out that the particular 

characteristic of the October coup had been to declare war immediately on all the other parties and 
forbid them to join forces? ("They're not hauling you in, so don't you dare peep!") But for some 
reason one gets the feeling that some of the defendants sat there with downcast eyes and that some of 
them truly had divided hearts: just how could they have fallen so low? After all, for the prisoner 
who'd been brought in from a dark cell, the friendly, sympathetic attitude of the prosecutor in the big 
bright hall struck home very effectively. 

And Krylenko discovered another very, very logical little path which was to prove very useful to 
Vyshinsky when he applied it against Kamenev and Bukharin: On entering into an alliance with the 
bourgeoisie, you accepted money from them. At first you took it for the cause, only /or the cause, 
and in no wise for Party pur- poses. But where is the boundary line? Who can draw that divid- ing 
line? After all, isn't the cause a Party cause also? And so you sank to the level — you, the Socialist 
Revolutionary Party — of being supported by the bourgeoisie! Where was your revolutionary pride? 



A full quota of charges — and then some — had been piled up. And the tribunal could have gone out to 
confer and thereupon nailed each of the prisoners with his well-merited execution — but, alas, there 
was a big mix-up: 

a. Everything the Socialist Revolutionary Party had been ac- cused of related to 1918. 

b. Since then, on February 27, 1919, an amnesty had been declared for SR's exclusively, which 
pardoned all their past belligerency against the Bolsheviks on the sole stipulation that they would not 
continue the struggle into the future. 

c. And they had not continued the struggle since that time. 

d. And it was now 1922! 

How could Krylenko get around that one? 

Some thought had been given to this point. When the Socialist International asked the Soviet 
government to drop charges and not put its socialist brothers on trial, some thought had been given to 
it. 

In fact, at the beginning of 1919, in the face of threats from Kolchak and Denikin, the SR's had 

renounced their task of revolt against the Bolsheviks and had abandoned all armed struggle against 
them. (And to aid their Communist brethren, the Samara SR's had even opened up a section of the 
Kolchak front. . . which was, in fact, why the amnesty had been granted.) And right at the trial the 
defendant Gendelman, a member of the Central Com- mittee, said: "Give us the chance to make use 
of the whole gamut of so-called civil liberties, and we will not break the law." (Give it to them! The 
"whole gamut," to boot! What loud-mouths!) 

And it wasn't just that they weren't engaged in any opposition: they had recognized the Soviet 
government! In other words, they had renounced their former Provisional Government, yes, and the 
Constituent Assembly as well. And all they asked was a new election for the Soviets, with freedom 
for all parties to engage in electoral campaigning. 

Now did you hear that? Did you hear that? That's where the hostile bourgeois beast poked his snout 
through. How could we? After all, this is a time of crisis! After all, we are encircled by the enemy. 
(And in twenty years' time, and fifty years' time, and a hundred years' time, for that matter, it will be 
exactly the same.) And you want freedom for the parties to engage in electoral cam- paigning, you 
bastards? 

Politically sober people, said Krylenko, could only laugh in reply and shrug their shoulders. It had 
been a just decision "im- mediately and by all measures of state suppression to prevent these groups 
from conducting propaganda against the govern- ment." And specifically: in reply to the 
renunciation by the SR's of armed opposition and to their peaceful proposals, they had put the entire 
Central Committee of the Socialist Revolu- tionary Party in prison! (As many of them as they could 
catch.) 

That's how we do it! 

But to keep them in prison — and hadn't it already been three years? — wasn't it necessary to try them? 
And what should they be charged with? "This period had not been sufficiently investi- gated in the 
pretrial examination," our prosecutor complained. 

But in the meanwhile one charge was correct. In that same February, 1919, the SR's had passed a 
resolution which they had not put into effect, though in terms of the new Criminal Code that didn't 



matter at all: to carry on secret agitation in the ranks of the Red Army in order to induce the soldiers 
to refuse to par- ticipate in reprisals against the peasants. 

And that was a low-down, foul betrayal of the Revolution — to try to persuade men not to take part in 
reprisals. 

And they could also be charged with everything that the so- called "Foreign Delegation of the 
Central Committee" of the SR's — those prominent SR's who had fled to Europe — had said, writ- ten, 
and done (mostly words). 

But all that wasn't enough. So here's what they thought up: "Many defendants sitting here would not 
deserve to be indicted in the given case, were it not for the charge of having planned terrorist acts." 
Allegedly, when the amnesty of 1919 had been published, "none of the leaders of Soviet Justice had 
imagined" that the SR's had also planned to use terrorism against the leaders of the Soviet state! 
(Well, indeed, who could possibly have im- agined that! The SR's! And terrorism, all of a sudden? 
And if it had come to mind, it would have been necessary to include it in the amnesty too! Or else 
not accept the gap in the Kolchak front. It was really very, very fortunate indeed that no one had 
thought of it. Not until it was needed — then someone thought of it.) So this charge had not been 
amnestied (for, after all, struggle was the only offense that had been amnestied). And so Krylenko 
could now make the charge! 

And, in all likelihood, they had discovered so very much! So very much! 

In the first place, they had discovered what the SR leaders had said back in the first days after the 
October seizure of power. 

[And what hadn't those chatterboxes said in the course of a lifetime?] 

Chernov, at the Fourth Congress of the SR's, had said that the Party would "counterpose all its forces 
against any attack on the rights of the people, as it had" under Tsarism. (And everyone remembered 
how it had done that.) Gots had said. "If the auto- crats at Smolny also infringe on the Constituent 
Assembly ... the Socialist Revolutionary Party will remember its old tried and true tactics." 

Perhaps it did remember, but it didn't make up its mind to act. Yet apparently it could be tried for it 
anyway. 

"In this area of our investigation," Krylenko complained, be- cause of conspiracy "there will be little 
testimony from witnesses." And he continued: "This has made my task extremely difficult. ... In 
this area [i.e., terrorism] it is necessary, at certain moments, to wander about in the shadows. "24 

What made Krylenko's task difficult was the fact that the use of terrorism against the Soviet 
government was discussed at the meeting of the SR Central Committee in 1918 and rejected. And 
now, years later, it was necessary to prove that the SR's had been engaged in self-deception. 

The SR's had said at the time that they would not resort to terrorism until and unless the Bolsheviks 
began to execute so- cialists. Or, in 1920, they had said that if the Bolsheviks were to threaten the 
lives of SR hostages, then the party would take up arms. 

[It was evidently all right to shoot the other hostages.] 

So the question then was: Why did they qualify their renunci- ation of terrorism? Why wasn't it 
absolute? And how had they even dared to think about taking up arms! "Why were there no 
statements equivalent to absolute renunciation?" (But, Comrade Krylenko, maybe terrorism was 
their "second nature"?) 



The SR Party carried out no terrorist acts whatever, and this was clear even from Krylenko's 
summing up of the charges. But the prosecution kept stretching such facts as these: One of the 
defendants had in mind a plan for blowing up the locomotive of a train carrying the Council of 
People's Commissars to Moscow. That meant the Central Committee of the SR's was guilty of ter- 
rorism. And the terrorist Ivanova had spent one night near the railroad station with one charge of 
explosives — which meant there had been an attempt to blow up Trotsky's train — and there- fore the 
SR Central Committee was guilty of terrorism. And further: Donskoi, a member of the Central 
Committee, warned Fanya Kaplan that she would be expelled from the Party if she fired at Lenin. 
But that wasn't enough! Why hadn't she been categorically forbidden to? (Or perhaps: why hadn't 
she been denounced to the Cheka?) 

It was feathers of this sort that Krylenko kept plucking from the dead rooster — that the SR's had not 
taken measures to stop individual terrorist acts by their unemployed and languishing gunmen. That 
was the whole of their terrorism. (Yes, and those gunmen of theirs didn't do anything either. In 1922, 
two of them, Konopleva and Semyonov, with suspicious eagerness, enriched the GPU and the 
tribunal with their voluntary evidence, but their evidence couldn't be pinned on the SR Central 
Committee — and suddenly and inexplicably these inveterate terrorists were re- leased scot-free.) 

All the evidence was such that it had to be bolstered up with props. Krylenko explained things this 
way in regard to one of the witnesses: "If this person had really wanted to make things up, it is 
unlikely he would have done so in such a way as to hit the target merely by accident." (Strongly put, 
indeed! This could be said about any piece of fabricated testimony whatever.) Or else, about 
Donskoi: Could one really "suspect him of possess- ing the special insight to testify to what the 
prosecution wanted"? It was just the other way around with Konopleva: the reliability of her 
testimony was evidenced by the fact that she had not testified to everything the prosecution needed. 
(But enough for the defendants to be shot.) "If we ask whether Konopleva con- cocted all this, then it 
is ... clear: if one is going to concoct, one must really concoct [He should know!], and if one is going 
to expose someone, one should really expose him." But she, you see, did not carry it through to the 
end. Then things are put still another way: "After all, it is unlikely that Yefimov needed to put 
Konopleva in danger of execution without cause." Once more correct, once more strongly put! Or, 
even more strongly: "Could this encounter have taken place? Such a possibility is not ex- eluded." 
Not excluded? That means it did take place. Off to the races! 

Then, too, the "subversive group." They talked about this for a long time, and then suddenly: 
"Dissolved for lack of activity." So what was all the fuss about? There had been several expropria- 
tions of money from Soviet institutions (the SR's had nothing with which to work, to rent 
apartments, to move from city to city). But previously these had been the lovely, noble "exes" — as 
all the revolutionists called them. And now, in a Soviet court? They were "robbery and concealment 
of stolen goods." 

Through the material adduced by the prosecution in this trial, the dull, unblinking, yellow 
streetlamps of the Law throw light on the whole uncertain, wavering, deluded history of this patheti- 
cally garrulous, essentially lost, helpless, and even inactive party which never was worthily led. And 
its every decision or lack of decision, its every casting about, upsurge, or retreat, was trans- formed 
into and regarded as total guilt. . . guilt and more guilt. 

And if in September, 1921, ten months before the trial, the SR Central Committee, already sitting in 
the Butyrki, had written to the newly elected Central Committee that it did not agree to the 
overthrow of the Bolshevik dictatorship by any available means, but only through rallying the 
working masses and the dissemina- tion of propaganda — all of which meant that, even as they 
languished in prison, they did not agree to being liberated through either terrorism or conspiracy — 
then that, too, was converted into their primary guilt: Aha! so that means that you did agree to its 
overthrow. 



And what if they were, nevertheless, not guilty of overthrowing the government, and not guilty of 
terrorism, and if there had been hardly any "expropriations" at all, and if they had long since been 
forgiven for all the rest? Our favorite prosecutor pulled out his canonical weapon of last resort: 
"Ultimately, failure to denounce is a category of crime applying to all the defendants without 
exception, and it must be considered as having been proved." 

The Socialist Revolutionary Party was guilty of not having squealed on itself! Now there's 
something that couldn't miss! This represented a discovery that juridical thought had made in the 
new Code. It was a paved highway along which they would keep driving and driving grateful 
descendants into Siberia! 

And Krylenko burst out in a temper: "Hardened eternal ene- mies" — that's who the defendants are! 
In that case it's quite clear even without any trial what has to be done with them. 

The Code was still so new that Krylenko could not even re- member the main counterrevolutionary 
articles by their numbers — but how he slashed about with those numbers! How pro- foundly he cited 
and interpreted them! Just as if the blade of the guillotine had for decades hinged and dropped only 
on those articles. And especially new and important was the fact that we did not draw the distinction 
between methods and means the old Tsarist Code had drawn. Such distinctions had no influence 
either on the classification of the charges or on the penalties imposed! For us, intent and action were 
identical! A resolution had been passed — we would try them for that. And whether it "was carried 
out or not had no essential significance." Whether a man whispered to his wife in bed that it would 
be a good thing to overthrow the Soviet government or whether he engaged in propaganda during 
elections or threw a bomb, it was all one and the same! And the punishment was identical!!! 

And just as a foresighted painter proceeds from his first few brusquely drawn, angular strokes to 
create the whole desired portrait, so, for us, the entire panorama of 1937, 1945, and 1949 becomes 
ever clearer and more visible in the sketches of 1922. 

But no, one thing is missing! What's missing is the conduct of the defendants. They have not yet 
become trained sheep. They are still people! We have been told little, very little, but from that little 
we can understand a great deal. Sometimes through care- lessness, Krylenko cites what they said 
right at the trial. For example, the defendant Berg "accused the Bolsheviks of responsi- bility for the 
deaths of January 5" — shooting down those who were demonstrating on behalf of the Constituent 
Assembly. And what Liberov said was even more direct: "I admit I was guilty of failing to work hard 
enough at overthrowing the Bolshevik government in 1918. Yevgeniya Ratner adhered to the same 
line, and Berg also declared: "I consider myself guilty before the workers' Russia for having been 
unable to fight with all my strength against the so-called workers' and peasants' government, but I 
hope that my time has not yet gone. "32 (It has gone, darling, all gone!) 

Of course, there is in all this an element of the ancient passion for the resounding phrase, but there is 
firmness too. 

The prosecutor argued: the accused are dangerous to Soviet Russia because they consider everything 
they did to have been a good thing. "Perhaps certain of the defendants find their own consolation in 
the hope that some future chronicler will praise them or their conduct at the trial." 

And a decree of the AU-Russian Central Executive Committee issued after the trial declared: "At the 
trial itself they reserved to themselves the right to continue" their former activity. 

The defendant Gendelman-Grabovsky (a lawyer himself) was conspicuous during the trial for his 
arguments with Krylenko on tampering with the testimony of witnesses and on "special methods of 
treating witnesses before the trial" — in other words, the obvious working-over they had gotten from 
the GPU. (It is all there! All the elements are there! There was only a little way to go before attaining 



the ideal.) Apparently the preliminary in- terrogation had been conducted under the supervision of 
the prosecutor — that same Krylenko. And during that process in- dividual instances of a lack of 
consistency in testimony had been ironed out. Yet some testimony was presented /or the first time 
only at the trial itself. 

Well, so what! So there were some rough spots. So it wasn't perfect. But in the last analysis, "We 
have to declare altogether clearly and coldly that... we are not concerned with the question of how 
the court of history is going to view our present deed." 

And as far as the rough spots are concerned, we will take them under advisement and correct them. 

But as it was, Krylenko, squirming, had to bring up — prob- ably for the first and last time in Soviet 
jurisprudence — the matter of the inquiry, the initial inquiry required before investigation. And here's 
how cleverly he handled this point: The proceeding which took place in the absence of the 
prosecutor and which you considered the investigation was actually the inquiry. And the proceeding 
in the presence of the prosecutor which you regarded as the reinvestigation, when all the loose ends 
were gathered up and all the bolts tightened, was really the investigation. The dis- organized 
"materials provided by the Organs for inquiry and unverified by the investigation have much less 
value as proof than the materials provided by the skillfully directed investiga- tion." 

Clever, wasn't it? Just try grinding that up in your mortar! 

To be practical about it, Krylenko no doubt resented having to spend half a year getting ready for 
this trial, then another two months barking at the defendants, and then having to drag out his 
summation for fifteen hours, when all these defendants "had more than once been in the hands of the 
extraordinary Organs at times when these Organs had extraordinary powers; but, thanks to some 
circumstances or other, they had succeeded in surviving." So now Krylenko had to slave away to try 
and get them executed legally. 

There was, of course, "only one possible verdict — execution for every last one of them" ! But 
Krylenko qualifies this gen- erously. Because this case is being watched by the whole world, the 
prosecutor's demand "does not constitute a directive to the court" which the latter would "be obliged 
to accept immediately for consideration or decision." 

What a fine court, too, that requires such an explanation! 

And, indeed, the tribunal did demonstrate its daring in the sentences it imposed: it did not hand down 
the death penalty for "every last one of them," but for fourteen only. Most of the rest got prison and 
camp sentences, while sentences in the form of productive labor were imposed on another hundred. 

And just remember, reader, remember: "All the other courts of the Republic watch what the Supreme 
Tribunal does. It pro- vides them with guidelines." 

The sentences of the Verkhtrib are used "as directives for their guidance." As to how many more 
would now be railroaded in the provinces, you can figure that out for yourself. 

And, probably, on appeal the decision of the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive 
Committee was worth the whole trial: the death sentences were to remain in effect, but not to be 
carried out for the time being. The further fate of those con- demned would depend, then, on the 
conduct of those SR's who had not yet been arrested, apparently including those abroad as well. In 
other words: If you move against us, we'll squash them. 

In the fields of Russia they were reaping the second peacetime harvest. There was no shooting 
except in the courtyards of the Cheka. (Perkhurov in Yaroslavl, Metropolitan Veniamin in Petrograd. 



And always, always, always.) Beneath the azure sky our first diplomats and journalists sailed abroad 
across the blue waters. And the Central Executive Committee of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies 
thrust into its pockets eternal hostages. 

The members of the ruling Party read all sixty issues of Pravda devoted to the trial — for they all read 
the papers — and all of them said: "Yes, yes, yes. " No one mumbled: "No! " 

What, then, were they surprised at in 1937? What was there to complain about? Hadn't all the 

foundations of lawlessness been laid — first by the extrajudicial reprisals of the Cheka, and then by 
these early trials and this young Code? Wasn't 1937 also expedient (expedient for Stalin's purposes 
and, perhaps. History's, too, for that matter)? 

Prophetically, Krylenko let it slip that they were judging not the past but the future. 
Only the first swath cut by the scythe is difficult. 

On or about August 20, 1924, Boris Viktorovich Savinkov crossed the Soviet border. He was 
immediately arrested and taken to the Lubyanka. 

[Many hypotheses were advanced about his return. Only a little while ago, a certain Ardamatsky, a 
person obviously connected with the archives and personnel of the Committee for State Security, 
published a story which, despite being adorned with pretentiously inflated literary gewgaws, is 
evidently close to the truth. (The magazine Neva, No. 11, 1967.) Having induced certain of 
Savinkov's agents to betray him and having deceived others, the GPU used them to set a foolproof 
trap, convincing Savinkov that inside Russia a large underground organization was languishing for 
lack of a worthy leader! It would have been impossible to devise a more effective trap! And it would 
have been impossible for Savinkov, after such a confused and sensational life, merely to spin it out 
quietly to the end in Nice. He couldn't bear not trying to pull off one more feat and not returning to 
Russia and his death.] 

In all, the interrogation lasted for just one session, which consisted solely of voluntary testimony and 
an evaluation of his activity. The official indictment was ready by August 23. The speed was totally 
unbelievable, but it had im- pact. (Someone had estimated the situation quite accurately: to have 
forced false and pitiful testimony out of Savinkov by torture would only have wrecked the 
authenticity of the picture.) 

In the official indictment, couched in already-well-developed terminology that turned everything 
upside down, Savinkov was charged with just about everything imaginable: with being a "consistent 
enemy of the poorest peasantry"; with "assisting the Russian bourgeoisie in carrying out its 
imperialist ambitions" (in other words, he was in favor of continuing the war with Germany); with 
"maintaining relations with representatives of the Allied command" (this would have been when he 
was in charge of the Ministry of War!); with "becoming a member of soldiers' committees for 
purposes of provocation" (i.e., he was elected by the soldiers' committees); and, last but not least, 
some- thing to make even the chickens cackle with laughter — with having had "monarchist 
sympathies." 

But all that was old hat. There were some new items too — the standard charges for all future trials: 
money from the im- perialists; espionage for Poland (they left out Japan, believe it or not); yes, and 
he had also wanted to poison the Red Army with potassium cyanide (but for some reason he did not 
poison even one Red Army soldier). 

On August 26 the trial began. The presiding judge was Ulrikh — this being our earliest encounter 
with him. And there was no prosecutor at all, nor any defense lawyer. 



Savinkov was lackadaisical in defending himself, and he raised hardly any objection at all to the 
evidence. He conceived of this trial in a lyrical sense. It was his last encounter with Russia and his 
last opportunity to explain himself in public. And to repent. (Not of these imputed sins, but of 
others.) 

(And that theme song fitted well here, and greatly confused the defendant: "After all, we are all 
Russians together. You and we adds up to us. You love Russia beyond a doubt, and we respect your 
love — and do we not love Russia too? In fact, are we not at present the fortress and the glory of 
Russia? And you wanted to fight against us? Repent!") 

But it was the sentence that was most wonderful: "Imposition of the death penalty is not required in 
the interests of preserving revolutionary law and order, and, on the grounds that motives of 
vengeance should not influence the sense of justice of the prole- tarian masses" — the death penalty 
was commuted to ten years' imprisonment. 

Now that was a sensation! And it confused many minds too. Did it mean a relaxation? A 
transformation? Ulrikh even pub- Ushed in Pravda an apologetic explanation of why Savinkov had 
not been executed. 

You see how strong the Soviet government has become in only seven years! Why should it be afraid 
of some Savinkov or other! (On the twentieth anniversary of the Revolution, it is going to get 
weaker, and don't be too hard on us because we are going to execute thousands.) 

And so, on the heels of the first riddle of his return, there would have been the second riddle of his 
being spared capital punishment had it not been overshadowed in May, 1925, by a third riddle: in a 
state of depression, Savinkov jumped from an unbarred window into the interior courtyard of the 
Lubyanka, and the gaypayooshniki, his guardian angels, simply couldn't manage to stop him and 
hold on to his big, heavy body. However, just in case — so that there wouldn't be any scandal in the 
service — Savinkov left them a suicide letter in which he explained logically and coherently why he 
was killing himself — and this letter was so authentically phrased, so clearly written in Savin- kov's 
style and vocabulary, that even Lev Borisovich, the son of the deceased, was fully convinced of its 
genuineness and explained to everyone in Paris that no one except his father could have written it 
and that he had ended his life because he realized his political bankruptcy. 

[And we, silly prisoners of a later Lubyanka, confidently parroted to one another that the steel nets 
hanging in the Lubyanka stairwells had been installed after Savinkov had committed suicide there. 
Thus do we succumb to fancy legends to the extent of forgetting that the experience of jailers is, 
after all, international in character. Such nets existed in American prisons as long ago as the 
beginning of the century — and how could Soviet technology have been allowed to lag behind? 

In 1937, when he was dying in a camp in the Kolyma, the former Chekist Artur Pryubel told one of 
his fellow prisoners that he had been one of the four who threw Savinkov from a fifth-floor window 
into the Lubyanka court- yard! (And there is no conflict between that statement and Ardamatsky's 
recent account: There was a low sill; it was more like a door to the balcony than a window — they 
had picked the right room! Only, according to Ardamatsky, the guards were careless; according to 
Pryubel, they rushed him all together.) 

Thus the second riddle, the unusually lenient sentence, was unraveled by the crude third "riddle." 

The story ascribed to Pryubel could not be checked, but I had heard it, and in 1967 I told it to M. P. 
Yakubovich. He, with his still youthful enthusiasm and shining eyes, exclaimed: "I believe it. Things 
fit! And I didn't believe Blyumkin; I thought he was just bragging." What he had learned was this: At 
the end of the twenties, Blyumkin had told Yakubovich, after swearing him to secrecy, that he was 
the one who had written Savinkov's so-called suicide note, on orders from the GPU. Apparently 



Blyumkin was allowed to see Savinkov in his cell constantly while he was in prison. He kept him 
amused in the evenings. (Did Savinkov sense that death was creeping up on him . . . sly, friendly 
death, which gives you no chance to guess the form your end will take?) And this had helped 
Blyumkin acquire Savinkov's manner of speech and thought, had enabled him to enter into the 
framework of his last ideas. 

And they ask: Why throw him out the window? Wouldn't it have been easier simply to poison him? 
Perhaps they showed someone the remains or thought they might need to. 

And where, if not here, is the right place to report the fate of Blyumkin, who for all his Chekist 
omnipotence was fearlessly brought up short by Man- delstam. Ehrenburg began to tell Blyumkin's 
story, and suddenly became ashamed and dropped the subject. And there is a story to tell, too. After 
the 1918 rout of the Left SR's, Blyumkin, the assassin of the German Ambassador Mirbach, not only 
went unpunished, was not only spared the fate of all the other Left SR's, but was protected by 
Dzerzhinsky, just as Dzerzhinsky had wanted to protect Kosyrev. Superficially he converted to 
Bolshevism, and was kept on, one gathers, for particularly important assassinations. At one point, 
close to the thirties, he was secretly sent to Paris to kill Bazhenov, a member of the staff of Stalin's 
secretariat who had defected, and one night he succeeded in throwing him off a train. However, his 
gambler's blood, or perhaps his admiration of Trotsky, led Blyumkin to the Princes' Islands in 
Turkey, where Trotsky was living. He asked Trotsky whether there were any assignments he could 
carry out for him in the Soviet Union, and Trotsky gave him a package for Radek. Blyumkin 
delivered it, and his visit to Trotsky would have remained a secret had not the brilliant Radek already 
been a stool pigeon. Radek brought down Blyumkin, who was thereupon devoured by the maw of 
the monster his own hands had suckled with its first bloody milk.] 

And all the major and most famous trials are still ahead of us. 

Chapter 10 

The Law Matures 

But where were those mobs insanely storming the barbed- wire barricades on our western borders 
whom we were going to shoot, under Article 71 of the Criminal Code, for unauthorized return to the 
Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic? Contrary to scientific prediction, there were no such 
crowds, and that article of the Code dictated by Lenin to Kursky remained use- less. The only 
Russian crazy enough to do it was Savinkov, and they had ducked applying that article even to him. 
On the other hand, the opposite penalty — exile abroad instead of execution — was tried out 
immediately on a large scale. 

In those days when he was composing the Criminal Code, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, developing his 
brilliant idea, wrote in the heat of the moment, on May 19: 

Comrade Dzerzhinsky! On the question of exiling abroad writers and professors who aid the 
counterrevolution: this is a measure which must be prepared most carefully. Unless we 

prepare well, we can commit stupidities We must arrange the business in such a way as to 

catch these "military spies" and keep on catching them con- stantly and systematically and 
exiling them abroad. I beg you to show this secretly, and without making any copies of it, to 
members of the Politburo. 

[Lenin, fifth edition. Vol. 54, pp. 265-266.] 

The extreme secrecy was natural in view of the importance and instructive impact of the measure. 
The crystal-clear line-up of forces on the class front in Soviet Russia was, to put it simply, spoiled by 
the presence of this shapeless, jellylike stain of the old bourgeois intelligentsia, which in the 



ideological area genuinely played the role of military spies — and the very best solution one could 
imagine was to scrape off that stagnant scum of ideas and toss it out abroad. 

Comrade Lenin had already been stricken by his illness, but the members of the Politburo had 
apparently given their approval, and Comrade Dzerzhinsky had done the catching. At the end of 
1922, about three hundred prominent Russian humanists were loaded onto — a barge, perhaps? No, 
they were put on a steamer and sent off to the European garbage dump. (Among those who settled 
down in exile and acquired reputations were the philos- ophers N. O. Lossky, S. N. Bulgakov, N. A. 
Berdyayev, F. A. Stepun, B. P. Vysheslavtsev, L. P. Karsavin, S. L. Frank, I. A. Ilin; the historians S. 
P. Melgunov, V. A. Myakotin, A. A. Kizevetter, 1. 1. Lapshin, and others; the writers and publicists 
Y. I. Aikhenvald, A. S. Izgoyev, M. A. Osorgin, A. V. Peshe- khonov. At the beginning of 1923, 
additional small groups were sent off, including for example V. F. Bulgakov, the secretary of Lev 
Tolstoi. And because of questionable associations some mathematicians also shared this fate, 
including D. F. Selivanov.) 

However, it didn't work out constantly and systematically. Per- haps the roar with which the emigres 
announced that they re- garded it as a "gift" made it apparent that this punishment left something to 
be desired, that it was a mistake to have let go good material for the executioner, and that poisonous 
flowers might grow on that garbage dump. And so they abandoned this form of punishment. And all 
subsequent purging led to either the executioner or the Archipelago. 

The improved Criminal Code promulgated in 1926, which, in effect, continued right into 
Khrushchev's times, tied all the formerly scattered political articles into one durable dragnet- Article 
58 — and the roundup was under way. The catch swiftly expanded to include the engineering and 
techfiical intelligentsia; it was especially dangerous because it occupied a firm position in the 
economy and it was hard to keep an eye on it with the help of the Progressive Doctrine alone. It now 
became clear that the trial in defense of Oldenborger had been a mistake — after all, a very nice little 
center had been organized there. And Krylenko's declaration that "there was no question of sabotage 
on the part of the engineers in 1920 and 1921" had granted an all too hasty absolution. Now it was 
not sabotage but worse — wrecking, a word discovered, it appears, by a rank-and-file interrogator in 
the Shakhty case. 

It had no sooner been established that wrecking was what had to be tracked down — notwithstanding 
the nonexistence of this concept in the entire history of mankind — than they began to discover it 
without any trouble in all branches of industry and in all individual enterprises. However, there was 
no unity of plan, no perfection of execution, in all these hit-or-miss discoveries, although Stalin, by 
virtue of his character, and of course the entire investigative branch of our judicial apparatus, 
evidently aspired to just that. But our Law had finally matured and could show the world something 
really perfect — a big, coordinated, well-organized trial, this time a trial of engineers. And that is how 
the Shakhty case came about. 

K. The Shakhty Case— May 18- July 15, 1928 

This case was tried before a Special Assize of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R., under Presiding 
Judge A. Y. Vyshinsky (who was still the Rector of First Moscow University) ; the chief accuser was 
N. V. Krylenko (what a significant encounter! — rather like a handing over of the juridical relay- 
baton). 

[And the members of the tribunal were the old revolutionaries Vasilyev- Yuzhin and Antonov- 
Saratovsky. The very simple folk sound of their family names inclines one to a favorable reaction. 
They are easy to remember. And when suddenly, in 1962, obituaries of certain victims of repression 
appeared in Izvestiya, whose signature was at the bottom? That of the long-lived Antonov- 
Saratovsky!] 



There were fifty-three defendants and fifty-six witnesses. How spec- tacular! 

Alas, in its spectacular aspect lay the weakness of this case. If one were to tie to each of the 
defendants only three threads of evidence, there would still have to be 159 of them. And mean- while 
Krylenko had only ten fingers and Vyshinsky another ten. Of course, the "defendants strove to 
expose their heinous crimes to society" — but not all of them did, only sixteen; thirteen wiggled back 
and forth, and twenty-four didn't admit their guilt at all. This introduced an impermissible discord, 
and the masses could certainly not understand it. Along with its positive aspects — which had, 
incidentally, already been displayed in earlier trials — such as the helplessness of the defendants and 
of the defense attorneys, and their inability either to budge or to deflect the implacable boulder of the 
sentence — the shortcomings of the new trial were fully apparent. Someone less experienced than 
Krylenko might have been forgiven them — but not he. 

On the threshold of the classless society, we were at last capable of realizing the conflictless trial — a 
reflection of the absence of inner conflict in our social structure — in which not only the judge and 
the prosecutor but also the defense lawyers and the defendants themselves would strive collectively 
to achieve their common purpose. 

Anyway, the whole scale of the Shakhty case, comprising as it did the coal industry alone and the 
Donets Basin alone, was disproportionately paltry for this era. 

It appears that then and there, on the day the Shakhty case ended, Krylenko began to dig a new, 
capacious pit. (Even two of his own colleagues in the Shakhty case — the public accusers Osadchy 
and Shein — fell into it.) And it goes without saying that the entire apparatus of the OGPU, which had 
already landed in Yagoda's firm hands, aided him willingly and adroitly. It was necessary to create 
and uncover an engineers' organization which encompassed the entire country. And for this purpose 
it was essential to have several strong, prominent "wreckers" at its head. And what engineer was 
unaware of just such an unequivocally strong and impatiently proud leader — Pyotr Akimovich Pal- 
chinsky? An important mining engineer from as far back as the beginning of the century, he had 
been the Deputy Chairman of the War Industry Committee during World War I — in other words, he 
had directed the war efforts of all Russian industry, which had managed, during the course of the 
war, to make up for the failures in Tsarist preparations. After February, 1917, he became the Deputy 
Minister of Trade and Industry. He had been persecuted under the Tsar for revolutionary activity. He 
had been imprisoned three times after October — in 1917, 1918, and 1922. 

From 1920 on, he had been a professor at the Mining Institute and a consultant to the Gosplan — the 
State Planning Commis- sion. (For more details about him see Part HI, Chapter 10.) 

They picked this Palchinsky to be the chief defendant in a grandiose new trial. However, the 
thoughtless Krylenko, stepping into what was for him a new field — engineering — not only knew 
nothing about the resistance of materials but could not even conceive of the potential resistance of 
souls . . . despite ten years of already sensational activity as a prosecutor. Krylenko's choice turned 
out to be a mistake. Palchinsky resisted every pressure the OGPU knew — and did not surrender; in 
fact, he died without signing any sort of nonsense at all. N. K. von Meek and A. F. Velichko were 
subjected to torture with him, and they, too, appear not to have given in. We do not yet know 
whether they died while under torture or whether they were shot. But they proved it was possible to 
resist and that it was possible not to give in — and thus they left behind a spotlight of reproach to 
shine on all the famous subsequent defendants. 

To cover up his defeat, on May 24, 1929, Yagoda published a brief GPU communique on the 
execution of the three for large- scale wrecking, which also announced the condemnation of many 
other unidentified persons. 

But how much time had been spent for nothing! Nearly a whole year! And how many nights of 



interrogation! And how much inventiveness on the part of the interrogators! And all to no avail. And 
Krylenko had to start over from the very beginning and find a leader who was both brilliant and 
strong, and at the same time utterly weak and totally pliable. But so little did he understand this 
cursed breed of engineers that another whole year was spent in unsuccessful tries. From the summer 
of 1929 on, he worked over Khrennikov, but Khrennikov, too, died without agreeing to play a 
dastardly role. They twisted old Fedotov, but he was too old, and furthermore he was a textile 
engineer, which was an unprofitable field. And one more year was wasted! The country was waiting 
for the all-inclusive wreckers' trial, and Comrade Stalin was waiting — but things just couldn't seem 
to fall into place for Krylenko. 

[And it is quite possible that this failure of his was held against him by the Leader and led to the 
symbolic destruction of the prosecutor — on the very same guillotine as his victims.] 

It was only in the summer of 1930 that someone found or suggested Ramzin, the Director of the 
Thermal Engineering Institute! He was arrested, and in three months a magnificent drama was 
prepared and performed, the genuine perfection of our justice and an un- attainable model for world 
justice. 

L. The Promparty (Industrial Party) Trial — November 25-Deceinber 7, 1930 

This case was tried at a Special Assize of the Supreme Court, with the same Vyshinsky, the same 
Antonov-Saratovsky, and that same favorite of ours, Krylenko. 

This time none of those "technical reasons" arose to prevent the reader's being offered a full 
stenographic report of the trial or to prohibit the attendance of foreign correspondents. 

There was a majesty of concept: all the nation's industry, all its branches and planning organs, sat on 
the defendants' benches. (However, only the eyes of the man who arranged it all could see the 
crevices into which the mining industry and railroad transportation had disappeared.) At the same 
time there was a thrift in the use of material: there were only eight defendants in all. (The mistakes of 
the Shakhty trial had been taken into account. ) 

You are going to exclaim: Can eight men represent the en- tire industry of the country? Yes, indeed; 
we have more even than we need. Three out of eight are solely in textiles, represent- ing the 
industrial branch most important for national defense. But there were, no doubt, crowds of 
witnesses? Just seven in all, who were exactly the same sort of wreckers as the defendants and were 
also prisoners. But there were no doubt bales of documents that exposed them? Drawings? Projects? 
Directives? Summaries of results? Proposals? Dispatches? Private correspondence? No, not one! 
You mean to say. Not even one tiny piece of paper? How could the GPU let that sort of thing get by? 
They had arrested all those people, and they hadn't even grabbed one little piece of paper? "There 
had been a lot," but "it had all been destroyed." Because "there was no place to keep the files." At the 
trial they produced only a few newspaper articles, published in the emigre press and our own. But in 
that event how could the prosecution present its case? Well, to be sure, there was Nikolai 
Vasilyevich Krylenko. And, to be sure, it wasn't the first time either. "The best evidence, no matter 
what the circumstances, is the confessions of the defendants." 

But what confessions! These confessions were not forced but inspired — repentance tearing whole 
monologues from the breast, and talk, talk, and more talk, and self-exposure and self-flagella- tion! 
They told old man Fedotov, who was sixty-six, that he could sit down, that he had talked long 
enough, but no, he kept pouring out additional explanations and interpretations. For five sessions in a 
row, no questions were asked. The defendants kept talking and talking and explaining and kept 
asking for the floor again in order to supply whatever they had left out. They presented inferentially 
everything the prosecution needed without any ques- tions whatever being asked. Ramzin, after 
extensive explanations, went on to provide brief resumes, for the sake of clarity, as if he were 



addressing slow-witted students. The defendants were afraid most of all that something might be left 
unexplained, that some- one might go unexposed, that someone's name might go un- mentioned, that 
someone's intention to wreck might not have been made clear. And how they reviled themselves! "I 
am a class enemy!" "I was bribed." "Our bourgeois ideology." And then the prosecutor: "Was that 
your error?" And Chamovsky replied: "And crime!" There was simply nothing for Krylenko to do. 
For five sessions he went on drinking tea and eating cookies or whatever else they brought him. 

But how did the defendants sustain such an emotional ex- plosion? There was no tape recorder to 
take down their words, but Otsep, the defense attorney, described them: "The defend- ants' words 
flowed in a businesslike manner, cold and profession- ally calm." There you are! Such a passion for 
confession — and businesslike at the same time? Cold? More than that: they appear to have mumbled 
their glib repentance so listlessly that Vyshinsky often asked them to speak louder, more clearly, 
because they couldn't be heard. 

The harmony of the trial was not at all disturbed by the de- fense, which agreed with all the 
prosecutor's proposals. The principal defense lawyer called the prosecutor's summation his- toric and 
described his own as narrow, admitting that in making it he had gone against the dictates of his heart, 
for "a Soviet de- fense lawyer is first of all a Soviet citizen" and "like all workers, he, too, is 
outraged" at the crimes of the defendants. During the trial the defense asked shy and tentative 
questions and then instantly backed away from them if Vyshinsky interrupted. The lawyers actually 
defended only two harmless textile officials and did not challenge the formal charges nor the 
description of the defendants' actions, but asked only whether the defendants might avoid execution. 
Is it more useful. Comrade Judges, "to have their corpses or their labor?" 

. . . How foul-smelling were the crimes of these bourgeois engi- neers? Here is what they consisted 
of. They planned to reduce the tempo of development, as, for instance, to an over-all annual increase 
in production of only 20 to 22 percent, whereas the workers were prepared to increase it by 40 to 50 
percent. They slowed down the rate of mining local fuels. They were too slow in developing the 
Kuznetsk Basin. They exploited theoretical and economic arguments — such as whether to supply 
the Donets Basin with electricity from the Dnieper power station or whether to build a supertrunk- 
Une between Moscow and the Donbas — in order to delay the solutions of important problems. (The 
work stops while engineers argue!) They postponed considering new engineering projects (i.e., they 
did not authorize them immediately). In lectures on the resistance of mate- rials, they took an anti- 
Soviet line. They installed worn-out equipment. They tied up capital funds, for example, by using 
them for costly and lengthy construction projects. They carried out unnecessary (!) repairs. They 
misused metals (some grades of iron were wanting). They created an imbalance between the 
departments of a plant and between the supply of raw materials and the capacity for processing them 
industrially. (This was particularly notable in the textile industry, where they built one or two 
factories more than they needed to process the cotton harvest.) Then they leaped from minimal to 
maximal plans. And obvious wrecking began through the accelerated develop- ment of that same 
unfortunate textile industry. Most importantly, they planned sabotage in the field of electric power — 
even though none was ever carried out. Thus wrecking did not take the form of actual damage done 
but remained within the area of operational planning, yet it was intended to lead to a nationwide 
crisis and even to economic paralysis in 1930! But it didn't — and only because of the competitive 
industrial and financial plans of the masses (doubling the figures!). . . . 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," begins the skeptical reader. 

What? That isn't enough for you? But if, at the trial, we repeat every point and chew it over five or 
eight times, then perhaps it turns out not to be so negligible? 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." The reader of the sixties nonetheless sticks to his own view. "Mightn't all that 
have happened precisely because of those competing industrial and financial plans? Aren't things 
bound to be out of balance if any union meeting, without consulting Gosplan, can twist the ratios 



around as it pleases?" 



Oh, the prosecutor's bread is bitter! After all, they decided to publish every last word! That meant 
that engineers would read it too. "You've made your bed, now lie in it." And Krylenko rushed in 
fearlessly to discuss and to question and cross-question engineering details! And the inside pages and 
inserts of the enormous newspapers were full of small print about fine tech- nical points. The notion 
was that every reader would be over- come by the sheer mass of material, that he wouldn't have 
enough time, even if he used up all his evenings and his rest days too, and so he wouldn't read it all 
but would only notice the refrain following every few paragraphs: "We were wreckers, wreckers, 
wreckers." 

But suppose someone did begin, and read every last line? 

In that case, he would come to see, through the banality of self- accusations, composed with such 
ineptitude and stupidity, that the Lubyanka boa constrictor had gotten involved in something outside 
its competence, its own kind of work, that what breaks free of the crude noose is the strong- winged 
thought of the twentieth century. There the prisoners are: in the dock, submis- sive, repressed — but 
their thought leaps out. Even their terrified, tired tongues manage to name everything with its proper 
name and to tell us everything. 

. . Here is the situation in which they worked. Kalinnikov: "Well, to be sure, a situation of technical 
distrust was created." Larichev: "Whether we wanted to or not, we still had to produce that 42 
millions of tons of petroleum [i.e., it had been thus ordered from on high] . . . because, no matter 
what, 42 million tons of petroleum could not have been produced under any circumstances 
whatever." 

All the work of that unhappy generation of our engineers was squeezed between two such 
impossibilities. The Thermal Engineering Institute was proud of its principal research achievement, 
which was the sharply improved coefficient of fuel consumption. On this basis, lower requirements 
for fuel production had been stipulated in the preliminary plan. And that meant wrecking — reducing 
fuel resources. In the transportation plan, they had provided for all freight cars to be equipped with 
automatic coupling. And that meant wrecking: they had tied up capital funds. After all, it takes a long 
time to intro- duce automatic coupling, and the capital investment involved in installing it can only 
be recouped over a long period, and we want everything immediately! In order to make more 
efficient use of single- track railroads, they decided to increase the size of the locomotives and 
freight cars. And was that considered modernization? No, it was wreck- ing. Because in that case it 
would have been necessary to invest funds in strengthening the roadbeds and the superstructures of 
the bridges. 

From the profound economic consideration that in America capital is cheap and labor dear, and that 

the situation here is just the opposite, and that we therefore ought not to borrow things with 
monkeylike imitativeness, Fedotov concluded that it was useless for us to purchase expensive 
American assembly-Hue machinery. For the next ten years it would be more profitable for us to buy 
less sophisticated English machinery and to put more workers on it, since it was inevitable that in ten 
years' time whatever we had purchased would be replaced anyway, no matter what. And we could 
then buy more expensive machinery. So that, too, was wrecking. Alleging economy as his reason, 
what he really wanted, they charged, was to avoid having the most advanced type of machinery in 
Soviet industry. They began to build new factories out of reinforced concrete, instead of cheaper 
ordinary concrete, on the grounds that over a hundred-year period reinforced concrete would recoup 
the additional investment many times over. So that, too, was wrecking: tying up capital; using up 
scarce reinforcing rods when iron was in short supply. (What was it supposed to be kept for — false 
teeth?) 

From among the defendants, Fedotov willingly conceded: Of course, if every kopeck must be 



counted today, then it could be considered wrecking. The English say: I'm not rich enough to buy 
cheap goods. 

He tries softly to explain to the hardheaded prosecutor: "Theoreti- cal approaches of every kind 
project norms which in the final analysis are [they will be considered to be] wrecking. ..." 

Well, tell me now: how much more clearly could a frightened de- fendant speak out? What is theory 
to us is wrecking to you! Because you are compelled to grab today, without any thought for 
tomorrow. 

Old Fedotov tries to explain where thousands and millions of rubles are lost in the insane rush of the 
Five- Year Plan: Cotton is not sorted where it is grown so that every factory can be sent that grade 
and kind of cotton it requires; instead, it is shipped any old way, all mixed up. But the prosecutor 
doesn't listen to him. With the stubbornness of a block of stone he keeps coming back again and 
again — ten times — to the more obvious question he has put together out of children's building 
blocks: Why did they begin to build the so-called "factory- palaces," with high ceilings, broad 
corridors, and unnecessarily good ventilation? Was that not the most obvious sort of wrecking? After 
all, that amounted to tying up capital irrevocably! The bourgeois wreckers explain to him that the 
People's Commissariat of Labor wanted to build factories for the workers in the land of the 
proletariat which were spacious and had good air. [That means there are also wreckers in the 
People's Commissariat of Labor. Make a note of that!] The doctors had insisted on thirty feet of 
space between floors, and Fedotov reduced it to twenty — so why not to sixteen? Now that was 
wrecking! (If he had reduced it to fifteen, that would have been flagrant wrecking: he would have 
wanted to create the nightmare conditions of a capitalist factory for free Soviet workers.) They ex- 
plain to Krylenko that in relation to the entire cost of the factory and its equipment, this difference 
accounted for 3 percent of the total — but no, again and again and again, he keeps on about the 
height of the ceilings! And how did they dare install such powerful ventilators? They took into 
account the hottest summer days. Why the hottest days? So what! Let the workers sweat a little on 
the hottest days! 

And in the meantime: "The disproportions were inherent. . . . Bungling organization saw to that 
before there was any 'Engineers Center.'" (Chamovsky.) "No wrecking activities were ever neces- 
sary. . . . All one had to do was carry out the appropriate actions and everything would happen on its 
own." (Chamovsky again.) He could not have expressed himself more clearly. And he said this after 
many months in the Lubyanka and from the defendants' bench in court. The appropriate actions — 
i.e., those imposed by bungling higher-ups — were quite enough: carry them out and the unthinkable 
plan would destroy itself. Here was their kind of wrecking: "We had the capability of producing, 
say, 1,000 tons and we were ordered [in other words, by a nonsensical plan] to produce 3,000, so we 
took no steps to produce them." . . . 

You must admit that for an official, double-checked, spruced-up stenographic record in those years, 
this is not so little. 

On many occasions Krylenko drives his actors to tones of exhaustion, thanks to the nonsense they 
are compelled to grind out over and over again . . . like a bad play in which the actor is ashamed for 
the dramatist, and yet has to go on and on any- way, to keep body and soul together. 

Krylenko: "Do you agree?" 

Fedotov: "I agree . . . even though in general I do not think . . ," 
Krylenko: "Do you confirm this?" 

Fedotov: "Properly speaking ... in certain portions . . . and so to speak, in general . . . yes." 



For the engineers (those who were still free, not yet imprisoned, and who had to face the necessity of 
working cheerfully after the defamation at the trial of their whole class), there was no way out. They 
were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. If they went forward, it was wrong, and if they 
went backward, it was wrong too. If they hurried, they were hurrying for the pur- pose of wrecking. 
If they moved methodically, it meant wrecking by slowing down tempos. If they were painstaking in 
develop- ing some branch of industry, it was intentional delay, sabotage. And if they indulged in 
capricious leaps, their intention was to produce an imbalance for the purpose of wrecking. Using 
capital for repairs, improvements, or capital readiness was tying up capital funds. And if they 
allowed equipment to be used until it broke down, it was a diversionary action! (In addition, the 
interrogators would get all this information out of them by sub- jecting them to sleeplessness and 
punishment cells and then de- manding that they give convincing examples of how they might have 
carried on wrecking activities.) 

"Give us a clear example! Give us a clear example of your wrecking activity!" the impatient 
Krylenko urges them on. 

(They will give you outstanding examples! Just wait! Soon someone will write the history of the 
technology of those years! He will give you examples — and negative examples. He will evaluate for 
you all the convulsions of your epileptic "Five- Year Plan in Four Years." Then we will find out how 
much of the people's wealth and strength was squandered. Then we will find out how all the best 
projects were destroyed, and how the worst projects were carried out by the worst means. Well, yes, 
if the Mao Tse-tung breed of Red Guard youths supervise brilliant engineers, what good can come of 
it? Dilettante enthusiasts — they were the ones who egged on their even stupider leaders.) 

Yes, full details are a disservice. Somehow the more details provided, the less the evil deeds seem to 
smell of execution. 

But just a moment! We've not had everything yet! The most important crimes all lie ahead! Here 

they are, here they come, comprehensible and intelligible to every illiterate! The Promparty (1 ) 
prepared the way for the Intervention; (2) took money from the imperialists; (3) conducted 
espionage; (4) assigned cabinet posts in a future government. 

And that did it! All mouths were shut. And all those who had been expressing their reservations fell 
silent. And only the tramp- ing of demonstrators could be heard, and the roars outside the window: 
"Death! Death! Death!" 

What about some more details? Why should you want more details? Well, then, if that's the way you 
want it; but they will only be more frightening. They were all acting under orders from the French 
General Staff. After all, France doesn't have enough worries, or difficulties, or party conflicts of its 
own, and it is enough just to whistle, and, lo and behold, divisions will march. 

... Intervention! First they planned it for 1928. But they couldn't come to an agreement, they couldn't 
tie up all the loose ends. All right, so they postponed it to 1930. But once more they couldn't agree 
among themselves. All right, 1931 then. And, as a matter of fact, here's how it was to go: France 
herself would not fight but, as her commission for organizing the deal, would take the Ukraine right 
bank as her share. England wouldn't fight either, of course, but, in order to raise a scare, promised to 
send her fleet into the Black Sea and into the Baltic — in return, she would get Caucasian oil. The 
actual warriors would, for the most part, be the following: 100,000 emigres (true, they had long since 
scattered to the four winds, but it would take only a whistle to gather them all together again 
immediately) ; Poland — for which she would get half the Ukraine; Rumania (whose brilliant 
successes in World War I were famous — she was a formidable enemy). And then there were Latvia 
and Estonia. (These two small countries would willingly drop all the concerns of their young 
governments and rush forth en masse to do battle.) And the most frightening thing of all was the 
direction of the main blow. How's that? Was it already known? Yes! It would begin from Bessarabia, 



and from there, keeping to the right bank of the Dnieper, it would move straight on Moscow. 

[Who drew that arrow for Krylenko on a cigarette pack — was it not drawn by the same hand that 
thought up our entire defense strategy in 1941?] 

And at that fateful moment, would not all our railroads certainly be blown up? No, not at all. 
Bottlenecks would be created! And the Promparty would also yank out the fuses in electric power 
sta- tions, and the entire Soviet Union would be plunged into dark- ness, and all our machinery 
would come to a halt, including the textile machinery! And sabotage would be carried out. (Atten- 
tion, defendants! You must not name your methods of sabotage, nor the factories which were your 
objectives, nor the geographic sites involved, until the closed session. And you must not name 
names, whether foreign or our own!) Combine all this with the fatal blow which will have been dealt 
the textile industry by that time! Add the fact that the saboteurs will have constructed two or three 
textile factories in Byelorussia which will serve as a base of operations for the interventionists. 

[Protsess Prompartii, p. 356. This was not intended as a joke.] 

With the textile fac- tories already in their hands, the interventionists would march implacably on 
Moscow. But here was the cleverest part of the whole plot: though they didn't succeed in doing so, 
they had wanted to drain the Kuban marshes and the Polesye swamps, and the swamp near Lake 
Urnen (Vyshinsky had forbidden them to name the exact places, but one of the witnesses blurted 
them out), and then the interventionists would open up the shortest routes and would get to Moscow 
without wetting their feet or their horses' hoofs. (And why was it so hard for the Tatars? Why was it 
that Napoleon didn't reach Moscow? Yes! It was because of the Polesye and the Ilmen swamps. And 
once those swamps were drained, the capital would lie exposed.) On top of that, don't forget to add 
that hangars had been built there under the guise of sawmills (places not to be named!) so that the 
planes of the interventionists would not get wet in the rain and could be taxied into them. And 
housing for the intervention- ists had also been built (do not name the places!). (And where had all 
the homeless occupation armies been quartered in previous wars?) The defendants had received all 
the directives on these matters from the mysterious foreign gentlemen K. and R. (It is strictly 
forbidden to name their names — or to name the countries they come from!) And most recently they 
had even begun "the preparation of treasonable actions by individual units of the Red Army." (Do 
not name the branches of the service, nor the units, nor the names of any persons involved!) True, 
they hadn't done any of this; but they had also intended (though they hadn't done that either) to 
organize within some central army institution a cell of financiers and former officers of the White 
armies. (Ah, the White Army? Write it down! Start making arrests! ) And cells of anti-Soviet 
students. (Students? Write it down! Start making arrests!) 

(Incidentally, don't push things too far. We wouldn't want the workers to get despondent and begin to 
feel that everything is falling apart, that the Soviet government has been caught nap- ping. And so 
they also threw a good deal of light on that side of it: that they had intended to do a lot and had 
accomplished very little, that not one industry had suffered serious losses!) 

But why didn't the Intervention take place anyway? For various complex reasons. Either because 
Poincare hadn't been elected in France, or else because our emigre industrialists decided that their 
former enterprises had not yet been sufficiently restored by the Bolsheviks — let the Bolsheviks do 
more. And then, too, they couldn't seem to come to terms with Poland and Rumania. 

So, all right, there hadn't been any intervention, but there was, at least, a Promparty! Do you hear the 
tramp of marching feet? Do you hear the murmur of the working masses: "Death! Death! Death!"! 
And the marchers were "those who in the event of war would have to atone with their deaths, and 
deprivations and sufferings, for the work of these men." 

(And it was as if he had looked into a crystal ball: it was in- deed with their deaths, and deprivations 



and sufferings, that those trusting demonstrators would atone in 1941 for the work . . . of these men! 
But where is your finger pointing, prosecutor? At whom is your finger pointing?) 

So then — why was it the Industrial Party! Why a party and not an Engineering-Technical Center? 
We are accustomed to having a Center! 

Yes, there was a Center too. But they had decided to reorganize themselves into a party. It was more 
respectable. That way it would be easier to fight over cabinet posts in the future govern- ment. It 
would "mobilize the engineering-technical masses for the struggle for power." And whom would 
they be struggling against? Other parties, of course. Against the Working Peasants Party — the 
TKP — in the first place, for after all they had 200,000 members! Against the Menshevik Party in the 
second place! And as for a Center, those three parties together were to have con- stituted a United 
Center. But the GPU had destroyed them. "And it's a good thing they destroyed us." (All the 
defendants were glad!) 

(And it was flattering to Stalin to annihilate three more parties. Would there have been any glory, 
indeed, in merely adding another three "Centers" to his Ust?) 

And having a party instead of a Center meant having another Central Committee — yes, the 
Promparty's own Central Com- mittee! True, there had not been any party conferences, nor had there 
been any elections, not even one. Whoever wanted to be on the Central Committee just joined up — 
five people all told. They all made way for one another, and they all yielded the post of chairman to 
one another too. There were no meetings — either of the Central Committee (no one else would 
remember this, but Ramzin would remember it very well indeed, and he would name names) or of 
the groups from various branches of industry. There seemed even to be some dearth of members. As 
Chamovsky said, "There never was any formal organization of a Promparty." And how many 
members had there been? Larichev: "A count of members would have been difficult; the exact 
composition was unknown." And how had they carried out their wrecking? How had directives been 
communicated? Well, it was just a matter of whoever met whomever in some particular institution — 
directives were passed on orally. From then on everyone would carry out his own wrecking on his 
own conscience. (Well, now, Ramzin confidently named two thou- sand members. And whenever he 
named two, they arrested five. According to the documents in the trial, there were altogether thirty to 
forty thousand engineers throughout the U.S.S.R. That meant they would arrest every seventh one, 
and terrify the other six.) And what about contacts with the Working Peasants Party? Well, they 
might meet in the State Planning Commission, or else in the Supreme Council of the Economy, and 
"plan systematic acts against village Communists." 

Where have we seen all this before? Aha! InAida. They are seeing Radames off on his campaign, 
and the orchestra is thun- dering, and eight warriors are standing there in helmets and with spears — 
and two thousand more are painted on the backdrop. 

That's your Promparty. 

But that's all right. It works. The show goes on! (Today it is quite impossible to believe just how 

threatening and serious it all looked at the time.) And it is hammered in by repetition, and every 
individual episode is gone over several times. And be- cause of this the awful visions multiply. And, 
in addition, so that things won't become too bland, the defendants suddenly "forget" something 
terribly unimportant, or else they "try to renounce testimony" — and right then and there "they pin 
them down with cross-questioning," and it all winds up being as lively as the Moscow Art Theatre. 

But Krylenko pressed too hard. On the one hand he planned to disembowel the Promparty — to 

disclose its social basis. That was a question of class, and his analysis couldn't go wrong. But 
Krylenko abandoned the Stanislavsky method, didn't assign the roles, relied on improvisation. He let 
everyone tell his own story of his own life, and what his relationship to the Revolution had been, and 



how he was led to participate in wrecking. 

And, in one fell swoop, that thoughtless insertion, that human picture, spoiled all five acts. 

The first thing that we learn to our astonishment is that all eight of these big shots of the bourgeois 
intelligentsia came from poor families: the son of a peasant; one of the many children of a clerk; the 
son of an artisan; the son of a rural schoolteacher; the son of a peddler. At school, they were all 
impoverished and earned the money for their education themselves, from the ages of twelve, 
thirteen, and fourteen. Some gave lessons, and some worked on locomotives. And here was what 
was monstrous: no one barred their way to an education! They all completed the courses in high 
school and in higher technological institutions, and they became important and famous professors. 
(How could that have been? They always told us that under Tsarism only the children of landowners 
and capitalists . . . Those calendars cer- tainly couldn't have been lying! ) 

And here and now, in the Soviet period, engineers were in a very difficult position. It was almost 
impossible for them to provide their children with a higher education (after all, the children of the 
intelligentsia had the lowest priority, remember! ). The court didn't argue, nor did Krylenko. (And 
the defendants themselves hastened to qualify what they had said, asserting that, against the 
background of the general and over-all victories, this, of course, was unimportant.) 

Here we begin to distinguish bit by bit among the defendants, who, up to this point, had talked very 
much like one another. Their age differential also divided them with respect to probity. Those close 
to sixty and older made statements that aroused a friendly, sympathetic reaction. But forty-three- 
year-old Ramzin and Larichev, and thirty -nine-year-old Ochkin (the same one who had denounced 
Glavtop — the Main Fuels Committee — in 1921), were glib and shameless. And all the major 
testimony about the Promparty and intervention comes from them. Ramzin was the kind of person 
(as a result of his early and extraordinary successes) who was shunned by the entire engineering 
profession, and he endured it. At the trial he caught Krylenko's hints on the wing and volunteered 
precise statements. All the charges were founded on Ramzin's recollections. He possessed such self- 
control and force that he might very well have conducted plenipotentiary talks in Paris about 
intervention (on assignment from the GPU, obviously). Ochkin, too, was a fast climber: at twenty- 
nine he had already possessed "the unlimited trust of the Council of Labor and Defense and the 
Council of People's Commissars." 

One couldn't say the same about sixty-two-year-old Professor Chamovsky: Anonymous students had 
persecuted him in the wall newspapers. After twenty-three years of lecturing, he had been summoned 
to a general students' meeting to "give an account of his work." He hadn't gone. 

And in 1921 Professor Kalinnikov had headed an open struggle against the Soviet government — 
specifically a professors' strike. What it amounted to was this: Back in the days of the Stolypin 
repression, the Moscow Higher Technical School had won academic autonomy (including the right 
to fill important posts, elect a rector, etc.). In 1921 the professors in this school had re-elected 
Kalinnikov to a new term as rector, but the People's Commissariat didn't want him there and had 
designated its own candidate. However, the professors went on strike and were supported by the 
students — at that time there were no truly proletarian students — and Kalinnikov was rector for a 
whole year despite the wishes of the Soviet government. (It was only in 1922 that they had wrung 
the neck of that autonomy, and even then, in all probability, not without arrests.) 

Fedotov was sixty- six years old and he had been a factory engineer eleven years longer than the 
whole life span of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party — from which the Soviet 
Communist Party had sprung. He had worked at all the spinning mills and textile factories in Russia. 
(How hateful such people are, and how desirable it is to get rid of them as quickly as possible!) In 
1905 he had left his position as a director of the Morozov textile firm and the high salary which went 
with it because he preferred to attend the "Red Funerals" which fol- lowed the caskets of the workers 



killed by the Cossacks. And now he was ill, had poor eyesight, and was too weak to leave home at 
night even to go to the theater. 

And such people organized intervention? And economic ruin? Chamovsky had not had any free 
evenings for many years be- cause he had been so busy with his teaching and with developing new 
sciences — such as the science of the organization of produc- tion and the scientific principles of 
rationalization. I recall from my own childhood the engineering professors of those years, and that's 
exactly what they were like. Their evenings were given up to their students at all levels, and they 
didn't get home to their families until 1 1 P.M. After all, at the beginning of the Five- Year Plan there 
were only thirty thousand of them for the whole country. They were all strained to the breaking 
point. 

And it was these people who were supposed to have con- trived a crisis, to have spied in exchange 
for handouts? 

Ramzin uttered just one honest phrase during the whole trial: "The path of wrecking is alien to the 
inner structure of engineer- ing." 

Throughout the trial Krylenko forced the defendants to con- cede apologetically that they were 
"scarcely conversant" with or were "illiterate" in politics. After all, politics is much more diffi- cult 
and much loftier than some kind of metallurgy or turbine design. In politics your head won't help 
you, nor will your educa- tion. Come on! Answer me! What was your attitude toward the October 
Revolution when it happened? Skeptical. In other words, immediately hostile. Why? Why? Why? 

Krylenko hounded them with his theoretical questions — and as a result of simple human slips of the 
tongue inconsistent with their assigned roles, the nucleus of the truth is disclosed to us — as to what 
really had taken place and from what the entire bubble had been blown. 

What the engineers had first seen in the October coup d'etat was ruin. (And for three years there had 
truly been ruin and nothing else.) Beyond that, they had seen the loss of even the most elementary 
freedoms. (And these freedoms never returned.) How, then, could engineers not have wanted a 
democratic repub- he? How could engineers accept the dictatorship of the workers, the dictatorship 
of their subordinates in industry, so little skilled or trained and comprehending neither the physical 
nor the eco- nomic laws of production, but now occupying the top positions, from which they 
supervised the engineers? Why shouldn't the engineers have considered it more natural for the 
structure of society to be headed by those who could intelligently direct its activity? (And, excepting 
only the question of the moral leader- ship of society, is not this precisely where all social 
cybernetics is leading today? Is it not true that professional politicians are boils on the neck of 
society that prevent it from turning its head and moving its arms?) And why shouldn't engineers have 
politi- cal views? After all, politics is not even a science, but is an em- pirical area not susceptible to 
description by any mathematical apparatus; furthermore, it is an area subject to human egotism and 
blind passion. (Even in the trial Charnovsky speaks out: "Politics must, nonetheless, be guided to 
some degree by the findings of technology.") 

The wild pressures of War Communism could only sicken the engineers. An engineer cannot 
participate in irrationality, and until 1920 the majority of them did nothing, even though they were 
barbarically impoverished. When NEP — the New Eco- nomic Policy — got under way, the engineers 
willingly went back to work. They accepted NEP as an indication that the govern- ment had come to 
its senses. But, alas, conditions were not what they had been. The engineers were looked on as a 
socially sus- picious element that did not even have the right to provide an education for its own 
children. Engineers were paid immeasur- ably low salaries in proportion to their contribution to 
produc- tion. But while their superiors demanded successes in production from them, and discipline, 
they were deprived of the authority to impose this discipline. Any worker could not only refuse to 
carry out the instructions of an engineer, but could insult and even strike him and go unpunished — 



and as a representative of the ruling class the worker was always right in such a case. 

Krylenko objects: "Do you remember the Oldenborger trial?" (In other words, how we, so to speak, 
defended him.) 

Fedotov: "Yes. He had to lose his life in order to attract some attention to the predicament of the 
engineer." 

Krylenko (disappointed): "Well, that was not how the matter was put." 

Fedotov: "He died and he was not the only one to die. He died voluntarily, and many others were 
killed. " Krylenko was silent. That meant it was true. (Leaf through the Oldenborger trial again, and 
just imagine the persecution. And with the additional final line: "Many others were killed.") 

So it was that the engineer was to blame for everything, even when he had done nothing wrong. But 
if he actually had made a real mistake, and after all he was a human being, he would be torn to 
pieces unless his colleagues could manage to cover things up. For would they value honesty? So the 
engineers then were forced at times to lie to the Party leadership? 

To restore their authority and prestige, the engineers really had to unite among themselves and help 
each other out. They were all in danger. But they didn't need any kind of conference, any 
membership cards, to achieve such unity. Like every kind of mutual understanding between 
intelligent and clear-thinking people, it was attained by a few quiet, even accidental words; no kind 
of voting was called for. Only narrow minds need resolu- tions and the Party stick. (And this was 
something Stalin could never understand, nor could the interrogators, nor their whole crowd. They 
had never had any experience of human relation- ships of that kind. They had never seen anything 
like that in Party history!) In any case, that sort of unity had long existed among Russian engineers in 
their big illiterate nation of petty tyrants. It had already been tested for several decades. But now a 
new government had discovered it and become alarmed. 

Then came 1927. And the rationality of the NEP period went up in smoke. And it turned out that the 
entire NEP was merely a cynical deceit. Extravagantly unrealistic projections of a super- industrial 
forward leap had been announced; impossible plans and tasks had been assigned. In those conditions, 
what was there for the collective engineering intelligence to do — the engineering leadership of the 
State Planning Commission and the Supreme Council of the Economy? To submit to insanity? To 
stay on the sidelines? It would have cost them nothing. One can write any figures one pleases on a 
piece of paper. But "our comrades, our colleagues in actual production, will not be able to fulfill 
these assignments." And that meant it was necessary to try to intro- duce some moderation into these 
plans, to bring them under the control of reason, to eliminate entirely the most outrageous 
assignments. To create, so to speak, their own State Planning Commission of engineers in order to 
correct the stupidities of the leaders. And the most amusing thing was that this was in their 
interests — the interests of the leaders — too. And in the interests of all industry and of all the people, 
since ruinous decisions could be avoided, and squandered, scattered millions could be picked up 
from the ground. To defend quality — "the heart of technology" — amid the general uproar about 
quantity, planning, and overplanning. And to indoctrinate students with this spirit. 

That's what it was, the thin, delicate fabric of the truth. That is what it really was. 

But to utter such thoughts aloud in 1930 meant being shot. 

And yet it was still too little and too invisible to arouse the wrath of the mob. 

It was therefore necessary to reprocess the silent and redeem- ing collusion of the engineers into 
crude wrecking and inter- vention. 



Thus, in the picture they substituted, we nonetheless caught a fleshless — and fruitless — vision of the 
truth. The work of the stage director began to fall apart. Fedotov had already blurted out something 
about sleepless nights ( ! ) during the eight months of his imprisonment; and about some important 
official of the GPU who had recently shaken his hand (?) (so there must have been a deal: you play 
your roles, and the GPU will carry out its promises?). And even the witnesses, though their role was 
in- comparably less important, began to get confused. 

Krylenko: "Did you participate in this group?" 

Witness Kirpotenko: "Two or three times, when questions of intervention were being considered." 

And that was just what was needed! 

Krylenko (encouragingly): "Go on." 

Kirpotenko (a pause): "Other than that nothing is known." 

Krylenko urges him on, tries to give him his cue again. 

Kirpotenko (stupidly): "Other than intervention nothing is known to me. " 

Then, when there was an actual confrontation with Kupri- yanov, the facts no longed jibed. Krylenko 
got angry, and he shouted at the inept prisoners: 

"Then you just have to fix things so you come up with the same answers. " 

And in the recess, behind the scenes, everything was once more brought up to snuff. All the 
defendants were once again nervously awaiting their cues. And Krylenko prompted all eight of them 
at once: the emigre industrialists had published an article abroad to the effect that they had held no 
talks at all with Ramzin and Larichev and knew nothing whatever about any Promparty, and that the 
testimony of the witnesses had in all likelihood been forced from them by torture. Well, what are you 
going to say to that? 

Good Lord! How outraged the defendants were! They clamored for the floor without waiting their 
turns. What had become of that weary calm with which they had humiliated themselves and their 
colleagues for seven days? Boiling indigna- tion at those emigres burst from them. They demanded 
permis- sion to send a written declaration to the newspapers in defense of GPU methods. (Now, 
wasn't that an embellishment? Wasn't that a jewel?) And Ramzin declared: "Our presence here is 
sufficient proof that we were not subjected to tortures and tor- ments!" (And what, pray tell, would 
be the use of tortures that made it impossible for the defendants to appear in court!) And Fedotov: 
"Imprisonment did me good and not only me. ... I even feel better in prison than in freedom." And 
Ochkin: "Me too. I feel better too!" 

It was out of sheer generosity that Krylenko and Vyshinsky declined their offer of a collective 
declaration. They certainly would have written one! And they certainly would have signed it! 

But maybe someone had some lingering suspicions still? Well, in that case. Comrade Krylenko 
vouchsafed them a flash of his brilliant logic. "If we should admit even for one second that these 
people were telling untruths, then why were they arrested and why did they all at once start babbling 
their heads off?" 

Now that is the power of logic for you! For a thousand years prosecutors and accusers had never 
even imagined that the fact of arrest might in itself be a proof of guilt. If the defendants were 
innocent, then why had they been arrested? And once they had been arrested, that meant they were 



guilty! 



And, indeed, why had they started babbling away? 

"The question of torture we discard! . . . But let us put the question psychologically: Why did they 
confess? And I ask you: What else could they have done?" 

Well, how true! How psychological! If you ever served time in that institution, just recollect: what 
else was there to do? 

(Ivanov-Razumnik wrote that in 1938 he was imprisoned in the same cell in the Butyrki as Krylenko, 
and that Krylenko's place in the cell was under the board bunks. I can picture that vividly — since I 
have crawled there myself. The bunks were so low that the only way one could crawl along the dirty 
asphalt floor was flat on one's stomach, but newcomers could never adapt and would try to crawl on 
all fours. They would manage to get their heads under, but their rear ends would be left stick- ing 
out. And it is my opinion that the supreme prosecutor had a particularly difficult time adapting, and I 
imagine that his rear end, not yet grown thin, used to stick out there for the greater glory of Soviet 
justice. Sinful person that I am, I visualize with malice that rear end sticking out there, and through 
the whole long description of these trials it somehow gives me solace. ) 

Yes, the prosecutor expounded, continuing along the same line, if all this about tortures was true, 
then it was impossible to understand what could have induced all the defendants to con- fess, 
unanimously and in chorus, without any arguments and deviations. Just where could such colossal 
collusion have been carried out? After all, they had no chance to communicate with each other 
during the interrogation period. 

(Several pages further along, a witness who survived will tell us where.) 

Now it is not for me to tell the reader but for the reader to tell me just what the notorious "riddle of 
the Moscow trials of the thirties" consisted of. At first people were astounded at the Promparty trial, 
and then that riddle was transferred to the trials of the Party leaders. 

After all, they didn't put on trial in open court the two thousand who had been dragged into it, or 
even two or three hundred, but only eight people. It is not as hard as all that to direct a chorus of 
eight. And as for his choices, Krylenko was free to choose from thousands over a period of two 
years. Pal- chinsky had not been broken, but had been shot — and posthum- ously named "the leader 
of the Promparty," which is what he was called in the testimony, even though no word of his 
survived. 

And they had hoped to beat what they wanted out of Khrenni- kov, and Khrennikov didn't yield to 
them either; therefore he appeared just once in the record — in a footnote in small type: "Khrennikov 
died during the course of his interrogation." The small type you are using is for fools, but we at least 
know, and we will write it in double-sized letters: TORTURED TO DEATH DURING 
INTERROGATION. He, too, was posthum- ously named a leader of the Promparty, but there wasn't 
one least little fact from him, not one tiny piece of testimony in the general chorus, not one. Because 
he did not give even one! (And then all at once Ramzin appeared! He was a find. What energy and 
what a grasp! And he was ready to do anything in order to live! And what talent! He had been 
arrested only at the end of the summer, just before the trial really — and he not only man- aged to 
enter fully into his role, but it seemed as though he had written the whole play. He had absorbed a 
whole mountain of interrelated material, and he could serve it up spick-and-span, any name at all, 
any fact at all. And sometimes he manifested the languid ornateness of a bigwig scientist: "The 
activity of the Promparty was so widespread that even in the course of an eleven-day trial there is no 
opportunity to disclose it in total detail.") (In other words, go on and look for it, look further!) "I am 
firmly convinced that a small anti-Soviet stratum still exists in engineering circles." (Go get 'em, go 



get 'em, grab some more!) And how capable he was: he knew that it was a riddle, and that a riddle 
must be given an artistic explanation. And, unfeeling as a stick of wood, he found then and there 
within himself "the traits of the Russian criminal, for whom purification lay in public recantation 
before all the people." 

[Ramzin has been undeservedly neglected in Russian memories. In my view, he fully deserved to 
become the prototype of a cynical and dazzling traitor. The Bengal fire of betrayal! He wasn't the 
only such villain of this epoch, but he was certainly a prominent case.] 

So what it comes down to is that all Krylenko and the GPU had to do was select the right people. But 
the risk was small. Goods spoiled in interrogation could always be sent off to the grave. And 
whoever managed to get through both the frying pan and the fire could always be given medical 
treatment and be fattened up, and put on public trial! 

So then where is the riddle? How they were worked over? Very simply: Do you want to live? (And 
even those who don't care about themselves care about their children or grandchildren.) Do you 
understand that it takes absolutely no effort to have you shot, without your ever leaving the 
courtyards of the GPU? (And there was no doubt whatever about that. Whoever hadn't yet learned it 
would be given a course in being ground down by the Lubyanka.) But it is useful both for you and 
for us to have you act out a certain drama, the text for which you, as specialists, are going to write 
yourselves, and we, as prosecutors, are going to learn by heart . . . and we will try to remember the 
technical terms. (Krylenko sometimes made mistakes during the trial. He said "freight car axle" 
instead of "locomotive axle.") It will be unpleasant to perform and you will feel ashamed, but you 
just have to suffer through it. After all, it is better to live. And what assurance have we that you won't 
shoot us afterward? Why should we take vengeance on you? You are excellent specialists and you 
have not committed any crimes and we value you. Look at how many wrecking trials there have 
been; you'll see that no one who behaved has been shot. (Mercy for the defendants who cooperated 
in one trial was an important prerequisite for the success of the next. And hope was transmitted via 
this chain right up to Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves.) But the under- standing is that you have to 
carry out all our conditions to the very last! The trial must work for the good of socialist society. 

And the defendants would fulfill all the conditions. 

Thus they served up all the subtlety of engineers' intellectual opposition as dirty wrecking on a level 
low enough to be com- prehensible to the last illiterate in the country. (But they had not yet 
descended to the level of ground glass in the food of the workers. The prosecutors had not yet 
thought that one up.) 

A further theme was ideological motivation. Had they begun to wreck? It was the result of a hostile 
motivation. And now they jointly collaborated in confessing? It was once again the result of 

ideological motivation, for they had been converted (in prison) by the blazing blast-furnace face of 
the third year of the Five- Year Plan! Although in their last words they begged for their lives, that 
wasn't the main thing for them. (Fedotov: "There is no forgiveness for us. The prosecutor is right!") 
The main thing for these strange defendants right at that moment, on the threshold of death, was to 
convince the people and the whole world of the infallibility and farsightedness of the Soviet govern- 
ment. Ramzin, in particular, glorified the "revolutionary con- sciousness of the proletarian masses 
and their leaders," who had been "able to find immeasurably more dependable paths of economic 
policy" than the scientists, and who had calculated the tempos of economic growth rate far more 
correctly. And then: "I had come to understand it was necessary to make a jump ahead, and that it 
was necessary to make a leap forward, that it was necessary to capture by storm," etc., etc. 

[Protsess Prompartii, p. 504. And that is how they were talking here in the Soviet Union, in our own 
country, in 1930, when Mao Tse-tung was still a stripling.] 



And Larichev declared: "The Soviet Union is invincible against the weakening capitalist world." 
And Kalinnikov: "The dictatorship of the pro- letariat is an inevitable necessity." And further: "The 
interests of the people and the interests of the Soviet government merge into one purposeful whole." 
Yes, and in addition, in the country- side "the general line of the Party, the destruction of the kulaks, 
is correct." They had time, while awaiting execution, to deliver themselves of judgments about 
everything. And the repenting intellectuals even had enough voice for such a prophecy as this: "In 
proportion to the development of society, individual life is going to become more circumscribed. . . . 
Collective will is the highest form." 

Thus it was that with eight-horse traction all the goals of the trial were attained: 

1. All the shortages in the country, including famine, cold, lack of clothing, chaos, and obvious 
stupidities, were blamed on the engineer- wreckers. 

2. The people were terrified by the threat of imminent inter- vention from abroad and therefore 
prepared for new sacrifices. 

3. Leftist circles in the West were warned of the intrigues of their governments. 

4. The solidarity of the engineers was destroyed; all the in- telligentsia was given a good scare and 
left divided within itself. And so that there should be no doubt about it, this purpose of the trial was 
once more clearly proclaimed by Ramzin: 

"I would like to see that, in consequence of the present trial of the Promparty, the dark and shameful 
past of the entire intelli- gentsia will be buried once and for all."29 

Larichev joined in: "This caste must be destroyed! . . . There is not and there cannot be loyalty 
among engineers!"30 And Och- kin too: The intelligentsia "is some kind of mush. As the state 
accuser has said, it has no backbone, and this constitutes un- conditional spinelessness. . . . How 
immeasurably superior is the sensitivity of the proletariat." 

[Ibid., p. 509. For some reason, the main thing about the proletariat is always, believe it or not, 
sensitivity. Always via the nostrils.] 

So now just why should such diligent collaborators be shot? 

And that was the way the history of our intelligentsia has been written for decades — from the 
anathema of 1920 (the reader will remember: "not the brains of the nation, but shit," and "the ally of 
the black generals," and "the hired agent of imperialism") right up to the anathema of 1930. 

So should anyone be surprised that the word "intelligentsia" got established here in Russia as a term 
of abuse. 

That is how the public trials were manufactured. Stalin's searching mind had once and for all attained 
its ideal. (Those blunderheads Hitler and Goebbels would come to envy it and rush into their 
shameful failure with the burning of the Reichstag. ) 

The standard had been set, and now it could be retained perennially and performed over again every 
season — according to the wishes of the Chief Producer. And in fact the Chief wanted another within 
three months. The rehearsal time was very short, but that was all right. Come and see the show! Only 
in our theater! A premiere. 

M. The Case of the AU-Union Bureau of the Mensheviks— March 1-9, 1931 



The case was heard by a Special Assize of the Supreme Court, the presiding judge in this case, for 
some reason, being N. M. Shvemik. Otherwise everyone was in his proper place — Antonov- 
Saratovsky, Krylenko, and his assistant Roginsky. The pro- ducers were sure of themselves. For after 
all, the subject wasn't technical but was Party material, ordinary stuff. So they brought fourteen 
defendants onto the stage. 

And it all went off not just smoothly but brilliantly. 

I was twelve at the time. For three years I had been attentively reading everything about politics on 
the enormous pages of Izvestiya. I read the stenographic records of these two trials line by line. In the 
Promparty case, I had already felt, in my boyish heart, superfluity, falsehood, fabrication, but at least 
there were spectacular stage sets — universal intervention, the paralysis of all industry, the 
distribution of ministerial portfolios! In the trial of the Mensheviks, all the same stage sets were 
brought out, but they were more pallid. And the actors spoke their lines with- out enthusiasm. And 
the whole performance was a yawning bore, an inept, tired repetition. (Could it be that Stalin felt 
this, too, through his rhinoceros hide? How else can one explain his call- ing off the case of the 
Working Peasants Party after it had already been prepared, or why there were no more trials for 
several years?) 

It would be boring to base our interpretations once again on the stenographic record. In any case, I 
have fresher evidence from one of the principal defendants in this case — Mikhail Petrovich 
Yakubovich. At the present moment, his petition for rehabilitation, exposing all the dirty work which 
went on, has filtered through to samizdat, our savior, and people are reading it just as it happened. 

[He was refused rehabilitation. After all, the case in which he was tried had entered the golden tables 
of our history. After all, one cannot take back even one stone, because the entire building might 
collapse. Thus it is that M.P.Y. still has his conviction on his record. However, for his insolation, he 
has been granted a personal pension for his revolutionary activity! What monstrosities exist in our 
country.] 

His story offers material proof and ex- planation of the whole chain of Moscow trials of the thirties. 

How was the nonexistent "Union Bureau" created? The GPU had been given an assignment: they 
had been told to prove that the Mensheviks had adroitly wormed their way into — and seized — many 
important government jobs for counterrevolutionary purposes. The genuine situation did not jibe 
with this plan. There were no real Mensheviks in important posts. But then there were no real 
Mensheviks on trial either. (True, they say V. K. Ikov actually was a member of the quiet, do- 
nothing illegal Moscow Bureau of the Mensheviks — but they didn't know that at the trial. He was 
processed in the second echelon and received a mere eight.) The GPU had its own design: two from 
the Supreme Council of the Economy, two from the People's Commissariat of Trade, two from the 
State Bank, one from the Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives, one from the State Planning 
Com- mission. (What a boring and unoriginal plan! Back in 1920, they had ordered, in the matter of 
the "Tactical Center," that it include two from the Union of Rebirth, two from the Council of Public 
Figures, two from this and that, etc.) Therefore they picked the individuals who suited them on the 
basis of their positions. And whether they were Mensheviks or not depended on whether one 
believed rumors. Some who got caught this way were not Mensheviks at all, but directives had been 
given to consider them Mensheviks. The genuine political views of those accused did not interest the 
GPU in the least. Not all the de- fendants even knew each other. And they raked in Menshevik 
witnesses, too, wherever they could find them. 

[One was Kuzma A. Gvozdev, a man whose fate was bitter. This was the same Gvozdev who had 
been chairman of the workers' group in the War Industry Committee, and whom the Tsarist 
government, in an excess of stupidity, had arrested in 1916, and the February Revolution had made 
Min- ister of Labor. Gvozdev became one of the martyr long-termers of Gulag. I do not know how 



many years he had been imprisoned before 1930, but from 1930 on he was in prison continuously, 
and my friends knew him in .Spassk Camp, in Kazakhstan, as late as 1952.] 

(All the wit- nesses, without exception, were later given prison terms too.) Ramzin testified 
prolifically and obligingly at this trial also. But the GPU pinned its hopes on the principal defendant, 
Vladimir Gustavovich Groman (with the idea that he would help work up this case and be amnestied 
in return), and on the provocateur Petunin. (I am basing all this on Yakubovich's report.) 

Let us now introduce M. P. Yakubovich. He had begun his revolutionary activity so early that he had 
not even finished the gymnasium. In March, 1917, he was already Chairman of the Smolensk Soviet. 
Impelled by the strength of his convictions, which continued to lead him on, he became a strong and 
success- ful orator. At the Congress of the Western Front, he impetuously called those journalists 
who were demanding that the war con- tinue enemies of the people. And this was in April, 1917. He 
was nearly hauled from the rostrum, and he apologized, but there- after in his speech he maneuvered 
so adroitly and so won over his listeners that at the end he called them enemies of the people again, 
and this time to stormy applause. He was elected to the delegation sent to the Petrograd Soviet, and 
hardly had he arrived there than — with the informality of those days — he was named to the Military 
Commission of the Petrograd Soviet. There he exerted a strong influence on the appointment of army 
com- missars, [He is not to be confused with Colonel Yakubovich of the General Staff, who, at the 
same time and the same meetings, represented the War Ministry.] and in the end he became an army 
commissar on the Southwestern Front and personally arrested Denikin in Vinnitsa (after the 
Kornilov revolt), and regretted very much indeed (during the trial as well) that he had not shot him 
on the spot. 

Clear-eyed, always sincere, and always completely absorbed in his own ideas — whether they were 
right or wrong — he was counted as — and was — one of the younger members of the Men- shevik 
Party. This did not prevent him, however, from presenting his own projects to the Menshevik 
leadership with boldness and passion, such as, in the spring of 1917, proposing the formation of a 
Social Democratic government, or, in 1919, recommending that the Mensheviks enter the 
Comintern. (Dan and the others invariably rejected all his plans and their variations, and quite 
condescendingly, for that matter.) In July, 1917, he was very pained by the action of the socialist 
Petrograd Soviet in approv- ing the Provisional Government's calling up army units for use against 
other socialists, considering it a fatal error even though the other socialists were using armed force. 
Hardly had the Octo- ber coup taken place than Yakubovich proposed to his party that it should 
support the Bolsheviks wholeheartedly and work to improve the state structure they were creating. In 
the upshot, he was finally ostracized by Martov, and by 1920 he had left the ranks of the Mensheviks 
once and for all, convinced that he could not get them to follow the Bolsheviks' path. 

I have gone into all this detail to make it quite clear that throughout the Revolution Yakubovich had 
been not a Men- shevik but a Bolshevik, and one who was entirely sincere and disinterested. In 1920 
he was still one of the Smolensk food- supply commissars, and the only one of them who was not a 
Bolshevik. He was even honored by the People's Commissariat of Food Supply as the best. (He 
claims that he got along without reprisals against the peasantry, but I do not know whether or not this 
is true. At his trial he did, however, recall that he had organized "antispeculation" detachments.) In 
the twenties he had edited the Torgovaya Gazeta (The Trade Gazette) and had occupied other 
important posts. He had been arrested in 1930 when just such Mensheviks as he, "who had wormed 
their way in," were to be rounded up in accordance with the GPU plans. 

He had immediately been called in for questioning by Krylen- ko, who, earlier and always, as the 
reader already knows, was organizing the chaos of the preliminary inquiry into efficient 
interrogation. It turned out that they knew one another very well, for in the years between the first 
trials Krylenko had gone to that very Smolensk Province to improve food-requisition work. And here 
is what Krylenko now said: 



"Mikhail Petrovich, I am going to talk to you frankly: I con- sider you a Communist! [His words 
encouraged Yakubovich and raised his spirits greatly.] / have no doubt of your innocence. But it is 
our Party duty, yours and mine, to carry out this trial. [Krylenko had gotten his orders from Stalin, 
and Yakubovich was all atremble for the sake of the cause, like a zealous horse rushing into the 
horse collar.] I beg you to help me in every possible way, and to assist the interrogation. And in case 
of un- foreseen difficulties during the trial, at the most difficult moments, I will ask the chairman of 
the court to give you the floor." ! ! ! ! 

And Yakubovich promised. Conscious of his duty, he promised. Indeed, the Soviet government had 
never before given him such a responsible assignment. 

And thus there was not the slightest need even to touch Yakubovich during the interrogation. But 
that was too subtle for the GPU. Like everyone else, Yakubovich was handed over to the butcher- 
interrogators, and they gave him the full treatment — the freezing punishment cell, the hot box, 
beating his genitals. They tortured him so intensively that Yakubovich and his fellow defendant 
Abram Ginzburg opened their veins in desperation. After they had received medical attention, they 
were no longer tortured and beaten. Instead, the only thing to which they were subjected was two 
weeks of sleeplessness. (Yakubovich says: "Just to be allowed to sleep! Neither conscience nor 
honor matters any longer.") And then they were confronted with others who had already given in and 
who urged them to "confess" ... to utter nonsense. And the interrogator himself, Aleksei Alekseye- 
vich Nasedkin, said: "I know, I know, none of this actually happened! But they insist on it!" 

On one occasion when Yakubovich had been summoned to interrogation, he found there a prisoner 
who had been tortured. The interrogator smiled ironically: "Moisei Isayevich Teitel- baum begs you 
to take him into your anti-Soviet organization. You can speak as freely as you please. I am going out 
for a while." He went out. Teitelbaum really did beg: "Comrade Yakubovich! I beg you, please take 
me into your Union Bureau of Mensheviks! They are accusing me of taking 'bribes from foreign 
firms' and threatening me with execution. But I would rather die a counterrevolutionary than a 
common criminal!" (It was likelier that they had promised him that as a counter- revolutionary he 
wouldn't be shot! And he wasn't wrong either: they gave him a juvenile prison term, a "fiver.") The 
GPU was so short on Mensheviks they had to recruit defendants from volunteers! (And, after all, 
Teitelbaum was being groomed for an important role — communication with the Mensheviks abroad 
and with the Second International! But they honorably kept the deal they had made with him — a 
"fiver.") And with the inter- rogator's approval Yakubovich accepted Teitelbaum as a mem- ber of 
the Union Bureau. 

Several days before the trial began, the, first organizing session of the Union Bureau of the 
Mensheviks convened in the office of the senior interrogator, Dmitri Matveyevich Dmitriyev — so as 
to coordinate things, and so that each should understand his own role better. (That's how the Central 
Committee of the Prom- party convened too! That's where the defendants "could have met" — to 
answer Krylenko's earlier leading question.) But such a mountain of falsehood had been piled up that 
it was too much to absorb in one session and the participants got things mixed up, couldn't master it 
in one rehearsal, and were called together a second time. 

What did Yakubovich feel as he went into the trial? Should he not, in revenge for all the tortures to 
which he had been sub- jected, for all the falsehood shoved into his breast, create a sensational 
scandal and startle the world? But still: 

1. To do so would be to stab the Soviet government in the back! It would be to negate his entire 
purpose in life, everything he had lived for, the whole path he had taken to extricate himself from 
mistaken Menshevism and become a right-minded Bol- shevik. 

2. After a scandal like that they wouldn't just allow him to die; they wouldn't just shoot him; they 
would torture him again, but this time out of vengeance, and drive him insane. But his body had 



already been exhausted by tortures. Where could he find the moral strength to endure new ones? 
Where could he unearth the required heroism? 

(I wrote down his arguments as his heated words rang out — this being a most extraordinary chance 
to get, so to speak, a "posthumous" explanation from a participant in such a trial. And I find that it is 
altogether as though Bukharin or Rykov were explaining the reasons for their own mysterious 
submis- siveness at their trials. Theirs were the same sincerity and honesty, the same devotion to the 
Party, the same human weak- ness, the same lack of the moral strength needed to fight back, because 
they had no individual position. ) 

And at the trial Yakubovich not only repeated obediently all the gray mass of lies which constituted 
the upper limit of Stalin's imagination — and the imagination of his apprentices and his tormented 
defendants. But he also played out his inspired role, as he had promised Krylenko. 

The so-called Foreign Delegation of the Mensheviks — in es- sence the entire top level of their 
Central Committee — formally dissociated themselves from the defendants in a statement pub- lished 
in Vorwdrts. They declared there that the trial was a shameful travesty, built on the testimony of 
provocateurs and unfortunate defendants forced into it by terror; that the over- whelming majority of 
the defendants had left the Party more than ten years earlier and had never returned; and that 
absurdly large sums of money were referred to at the trial, representing more than the party had ever 
disposed of. 

And Krylenko, having read the article, asked Shvernik to permit the defendants to reply — the same 
kind of pulUng-all- strings-at-once he had resorted to at the trial of the Promparty. They all spoke up, 
and they all defended the methods of the GPU against the Menshevik Central Committee. 

But what does Yakubovich remember today about his "reply" and his last speech? He recalls that he 
not only spoke as befitted his promise to Krylenko, but that instead of simply getting to his feet, he 
was seized and lifted up — like a chip on a wave — by a surge of anger and oratory. Anger against 
whom? After having learned what torture meant, and attempting suicide and coming close to death 
more than once, he was at this point in a real, honest-to-God rage. But not at the prosecutor or the 
GPU! Oh, no! At the Foreign Delegation of the Mensheviks! ! ! Now there's a psychological switch 
for you! There they sat, unscrupulous and smug, in security and comfort — for even the poverty of 
emigre life was, of course, comfort in comparison with the Lubyanka. And how could they refuse to 
pity those who were on trial, their torture and suffering? How could they so impudently dissociate 
themselves from them and deliver these unfortunates over to their fate? (The reply Yakubovich 
delivered was powerful, and the people who had cooked up the trial were delighted.) 

Even when he was describing this in 1967, Yakubovich shook with rage at the Foreign Delegation, at 
their betrayal, their repudiation, their treason to the socialist Revolution — exactly as he had 
reproached them in 1917. 

I did not have the stenographic record of the trial at the time. Later I found it and was astonished. 
Yakubovich's memory — so precise in every little detail, every date, every name — had in this instance 
betrayed him. He had, after all, said at the trial that the Foreign Delegation, on orders from the 
Second International, had instructed them to carry out wrecking activities. He no longer remembered 
this. The foreign Mensheviks' statement was neither unscrupulous nor smug. They had indeed pitied 
the unfortunate victims of the trial but did point out that they had not been Mensheviks for a long 
time — which was quite true. What was it, then, that made Yakubovich so unalterably and sincerely 
angry? And exactly how could the Foreign Delegation not have con- signed the defendants to their 
fate? 

We like to take our anger out on those who are weaker, those who cannot answer. It is a human trait. 
And somehow the argu- ments to prove we are right appear out of nowhere. 



Krylenko said in his summation for the prosecution that Yakubovich was a fanatic advocate of 
counterrevolutionary ideas and demanded therefore that he be shot. 

And Yakubovich that day felt a tear of gratitude roll down his cheek, and he feels it still to this day, 
after having dragged his way through many camps and detention prisons. Even today he is grateful 
to Krylenko for not humiliating him, for not in- suiting him, for not ridiculing him as a defendant, 
and for call- ing him correctly di fanatic advocate (even of an idea contrary to his real one) and for 
demanding simple, noble execution for him, that would put an end to all his sufferings! In his final 
statement, Yakubovich agreed with Krylenko himself: "The crimes to which I have confessed [he 
endowed with great sig- nificance his success in hitting on the expression 'to which I have 
confessed' — anyone who understood would realize that he meant 'not those which I committed'] 
deserve the highest measure of punishment — and I do not ask any forgiveness! I do not ask that my 
life be spared!" (Beside him on the defendants' bench, Gro- man got excited! "You are insane! You 
have to consider your comrades. You don't have the right!") 

Now wasn't he a find for the prosecutor? 

And can one still say the trials of 1936 to 1938 are un- explained? 

Was it not through this trial that Stalin came to understand and believe that he could readily round up 
all his loud-mouth enemies and get them organized for just such a performance as this? 

And may my compassionate reader now have mercy on me! Until now my pen sped on untrembling, 
my heart didn't skip a beat, and we slipped along unconcerned, because for these fifteen years we 
have been firmly protected either by legal revolution- ality or else by revolutionary legality. But 
from now on things will be painful: as the reader will recollect, as we have had ex- plained to us 
dozens of times, beginning with Khrushchev, "from approximately 1934, violations of Leninist 
norms of legality began." And how are we to enter this abyss of illegality now? How are we to drag 
our way along yet another bitter stretch of the road? 

However, these trials which follow were, because of the fame of the defendants, a cynosure for the 
whole world. They did not escape the attention of the public. They were written about. They were 
interpreted and they will be interpreted again and again. It is for us merely to touch lightly on their 
riddle. 

Let us make one qualification, though not a big one; the published stenographic records did not 
coincide completely with what was said at the trials. One writer who received an entrance pass — 
they were given out only to selected individuals — took running notes and subsequently discovered 
these differences. All the correspondents also noted the snag with Krestinsky, which made a recess 
necessary in order to get him back on the track of his assigned testimony. (Here is how I picture it. 
Before the trial a chart was set up for emergencies: in the first column was the name of the 
defendant; in the second, the method to be used during the recess if he should depart from his text 
during the open trial; in the third column, the name of the Chekist respon- sible for applying the 
indicated method. So if Krestinsky de- parted from his text, then who would come on the run and 
what that person would do had already been arranged.) 

But the inaccuracies of the stenographic record do not change or lighten the picture. Dumfounded, 
the world watched three plays in a row, three wide-ranging and expensive dramatic pro- ductions in 
which the powerful leaders of the fearless Communist Party, who had turned the entire world upside 
down and terrified it, now marched forth Uke doleful, obedient goats and bleated out everything they 
had been ordered to, vomited all over them- selves, cringingly abased themselves and their 
convictions, and confessed to crimes they could not in any wise have committed. 

This was unprecedented in remembered history. It was par- ticularly astonishing in contrast with the 



recent Leipzig trial of Dimitrov. Dimitrov had answered the Nazi judges like a roaring lion, and, 
immediately afterward, his comrades in Moscow, mem- bers of that same unyielding cohort which 
had made the whole world tremble — and the greatest of them at that, those who had been called the 
"Leninist guard" — came before the judges drenched in their own urine. 

And even though much appears to have been clarified since then — with particular success by Arthur 
Koestler — the riddle continues to circulate as durably as ever. 

People have speculated about a Tibetan potion that deprives a man of his will, and about the use of 
hypnosis. Such explana- tions must by no means be rejected: if the NKVD possessed such methods, 
clearly there were no moral rules to prevent resorting to them. Why not weaken or muddle the will? 
And it is a known fact that in the twenties some leading hypnotists gave up their careers and entered 
the service of the GPU. It is also reliably known that in the thirties a school for hypnotists existed in 
the NKVD. Kamenev's wife was allowed to visit her husband before his trial and found him not 
himself, his reactions retarded. (And she managed to communicate this to others before she herself 
was arrested.) 

But why was neither Palchinsky nor Khrennikov broken by the Tibetan potion or hypnosis? 

The fact is that an explanation on a higher, psychological plane is called for. 

One misunderstanding in particular results from the image of these men as old revolutionaries who 
had not trembled in Tsarist dungeons — seasoned, tried and true, hardened, etc., fighters. But there is 
a plain and simple mistake here. These de- fendants were not those old revolutionaries. They had 
acquired that glory by inheritance from and association with the Narod- niks, the SR's, and the 
Anarchists. They were the ones, the bomb throwers and the conspirators, who had known hard-labor 
im- prisonment and real prison terms — but even they had never in their lives experienced a genuinely 
merciless interrogation (be- cause such a thing did not exist at all in Tsarist Russia). And these 
others, the Bolshevik defendants at the treason trials, had never known either interrogation or real 
prison terms. The Bol- sheviks had never been sentenced to special "dungeons," any Sakhalin, any 
special hard labor in Yakutsk. It is well known that Dzerzhinsky had the hardest time of them all, 
that he had spent all his life in prisons. But, according to our yardstick, he had served just a normal 
"tenner" just a simple "ten-ruble bill, " like any ordinary collective farmer in our time. True, 
included in that tenner were three years in the hard-labor central prison, but that is nothing special 
either. 

The Party leaders who were the defendants in the trials of 1936 to 1938 had, in their revolutionary 
pasts, known short, easy imprisonment, short periods in exile, and had never even had a whiff of 
hard labor. Bukharin had many petty arrests on his record, but they amounted to nothing. 
Apparently, he was never imprisoned anywhere for a whole year at a time, and he had just a wee bit 
of exile on Onega. 

[All the information here comes from Volume 41 of the Granat Encyclo- pedia, in which either 
autobiographical or reliable biographical essays on the leaders of the Russian Communist Party 
(Bolsheviks) are collected.] 

Kamenev, despite long years of propaganda work and travel to all the cities of Russia, spent only 
two years in prison and one and a half years in exile. In our time, even sixteen-year-old kids got five 
right off. Zinoviev, believe it or not, never spent as much as three months in prison. He never 
received even one sentence! In comparison with the ordinary natives of our Archipelago they were 
all callow youths; they didn't know what prison was like. Rykov and I. N. Smimov had been arrested 
several times and had been imprisoned for five years, but somehow they went through prison very 
easily, and they either escaped from exile without any trouble at all or were released because of an 
amnesty. Until they were arrested and imprisoned in the Lubyanka, they hadn't the slightest idea 



what a real prison was nor what the jaws of unjust interrogation were like. (There is no basis for 
assuming that if Trotsky had fallen into those jaws, he would have conducted himself with any less 
self-abasement, or that his resistance would have proved stronger than theirs. He had had no 
occasion to prove it. He, too, had known only easy imprisonment, no serious interrogations, and a 
mere two years of exile in Ust-Kut. The terror Trotsky inspired as Chairman of the Revolutionary 
Military Council was some- thing he acquired very cheaply, and does not at all demonstrate any true 
strength of character or courage. Those who have con- demned many others to be shot often wilt at 
the prospect of their own death. The two kinds of toughness are not connected. ) And as for Radek — 
he was a plain provocateur. (And he wasn't the only one in these three trials!) And Yagoda was an 
inveterate, habitual criminal. 

(This murderer of millions simply could not imagine that his superior Murderer, up top, would not, 
at the last moment, stand up for him and protect him. Just as though Stalin had been sitting right 
there in the hall, Yagoda confidently and insistently begged him directly for mercy: 'T appeal to you! 
For you I built two great canals! " And a witness reports that at just that moment a match flared in the 
shadows behind a window on the second floor of the hall, apparently behind a musUn curtain, and, 
while it lasted, the outline of a pipe could be seen. Whoever has been in Bakhchisarai may remember 
that Oriental trick. The second- floor windows in the Hall of Sessions of the State Council are 
covered with iron sheets pierced by small holes, and behind them is an unlit gallery. It is never 
possible to guess down in the hall itself whether someone is up there or not. The Khan remained 
invisible, and the Council always met as if in his presence. Given Stalin's out-and-out Oriental 
character, I can readily be- lieve that he watched the comedies in that October Hall. I cannot imagine 
that he would have denied himself this spectacle, this satisfaction. ) 

And, after all, our entire failure to understand derives from our belief in the unusual nature of these 
people. We do not, after all, where ordinary confessions signed by ordinary citizens are concerned, 
find their reasons for denouncing themselves and others so fulsomely baffling. We accept it as 
something we under- stand: a human being is weak; a human being gives in. But we consider 
Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Pyatakov, I. N. Smirnov to be supermen to begin with — and, in 
essence, our failure to understand is due to that fact alone. 

True, the directors of this dramatic production seem to have had a harder task in selecting the 
performers than they'd had in the earlier trials of the engineers: in those trials they had forty barrels 
to pick from, so to speak, whereas here the available troupe was small. Everyone knew who the chief 
performers were, and the audience wanted to see them in the roles and them only. 

Yet there was a choice! The most farsighted and determined of those who were doomed did not 
allow themselves to be arrested. They committed suicide first (Skrypnik, Tomsky, Gamarnik). It was 
the ones who wanted to live who allowed themselves to be arrested. And one could certainly braid a 
rope from the ones who wanted to live! But even among them some behaved differ- ently during the 
interrogations, realized what was happening, turned stubborn, and died silently but at least not 
shamefully. For some reason, they did not, after all, put on public trial Rudzutak, Postyshev, 
Yenukidze, Chubar, Kosior, and, for that matter, Krylenko himself, even though their names would 
have embellished the trials. 

They put on trial the most compliant. A selection was made after all. 

The men selected were drawn from a lower order, but, on the other hand, the mustached Producer 
knew each of them very well. He also knew that on the whole they were weaklings, and he knew, 
one by one, the particular weaknesses of each. Therein lay his dark and special talent, his main 
psychological bent and his life's achievement: to see people's weaknesses on the lowest plane of 
being. 

And the man who seems, in the perspective of time, to have embodied the highest and brightest 



intelligence of all the dis- graced and executed leaders (and to whom Arthur Koestler ap- parently 
dedicated his talented inquiry) was N. I. Bukharin. Stalin saw through him, too, at that lowest 
stratum at which the human being unites with the earth; and Stalin held him in a long death grip, 
playing with him as a cat plays with a mouse, letting him go just a little, and then catching him 
again. Bukharin wrote every last word of our entire existing — in other words, nonexist- ent — 
Constitution, which is so beautiful to listen to. And he flew about up there, just below the clouds, and 
thought that he had outplayed Koba: that he had thrust a constitution on him that would compel him 
to relax the dictatorship. And at that very moment, he himself had already been caught in those jaws. 

Bukharin did not like Kamenev and Zinoviev, and way back, when they had first been tried, after the 
murder of Kirov, he had said to people close to him: "Well, so what? That's the kind of people they 
were; maybe there was something to it. . . ." (That was the classic formula of the philistine in those 
years: "There was probably something to it. ... In our country they don't arrest people for nothing." 
And that was said in 1935 by the lead- ing theoretician of the Party! ) He spent the period of the 
second trial of Kamenev and Zinoviev, in the summer of 1936, hunting in the Tien Shan, and knew 
nothing about it. He came down from the mountains to Frunze — and there he read that the death sen- 
tence had been imposed on both men, and read the newspaper articles which made clear what 
annihilating testimony they had given against him. But did he hasten to stop that act of repres- sion? 
And did he protest to the Party that something monstrous was being done? No, all he did was send 
Koba a telegram asking him to postpone the execution of Kamenev and Zinoviev so that he, 
Bukharin, could get there to confront them and prove himself innocent. 

It was too late! Koba had enough of the sworn testimony; why did he need living confrontations? 

However, they still didn't arrest Bukharin for a long time. He lost his job as editor-in-chief of 
Izvestiya and all his other Party assignments and jobs, and he lived for half a year in his Kremlin 
apartment — in the Poteshny Palace of Peter the Great — as if in prison. (However, in the autumn he 
used to go to his dacha — and the Kremlin guards would salute him as though nothing at all had 
changed.) No one visited him or phoned him any longer. And all during these months he wrote 
endless letters: "Dear Koba! Dear Koba! Dear Koba!" And he got not one reply. 

He was still trying to establish friendly contact with Stalin! 

And Dear Koba, squinting, was already staging rehearsals. For many long years Koba had been 
holding tryouts for various roles, and he knew that Bukharchik would play his part beauti- fully. He 
had, after all, already renounced those of his pupils and supporters who had been arrested and 
exiled — they were few in number in any case — and had allowed them to be destroyed. 

[The only one he defended was Yefim TseitUn — but not for long.] 

He had stood by and allowed his own line of thinking to be wiped out and pilloried before it was 
fully developed and bom. And more recently, while he was still editor-in-chief of Izvestiya and a 
member of the Politburo, he had accepted as legal the execution of Kamenev and Zinoviev. Neither 
at the top of his lungs nor even in a whisper had he expressed any indignation over that. And yet 
these had all been tryouts for his own future role. 

Way back in the past, when Stalin had threatened to expel him (and all the rest of them) from the 
Party, Bukharin (like all the rest) had renounced his views in order to remain in the Party. And that, 
too, had been a tryout for his role. If that was how they acted while still in freedom and still at the 
height of honor and power, then they could certainly be depended on to follow the script of the play 
faultlessly when their body, their food, and their sleep were in the hands of the Lubyanka prompters. 

And what did Bukharin fear most in those months before his arrest? It is reliably known that above 
all he feared expulsion from the Party! Being deprived of the Party! Being left alive but outside the 



Party! And Dear Koba had played magnificently on this trait of his (as he had with them all) from 
the very moment he had himself become the Party. Bukharin (like all the rest of them) did not have 
his own individual point of view. They didn't have their own genuine ideology of opposition, on the 
strength of which they could step aside and on which they could take their stand. Before they became 
an opposition, Stalin de- clared them to be one, and by this move he rendered them power- less. And 
all their efforts were directed toward staying in the Party. And toward not harming the Party at the 
same time! 

These added up to too many different obligations for them to be independent. 

In essence, Bukharin had been allotted the starring role, and nothing was to be overlooked or 
abridged in the Producer's work with him, in the working of time on him, and in his own getting used 
to the role. Even sending him to Europe the previous win- ter to acquire manuscripts by Marx had 
been essential — not just superficially, for the sake of the whole network of accusations about his 
establishing contacts, but so that the aimless freedom of life on tour might all the more insistently 
demand his return to the main stage. And now, beneath black thunderclouds of accusations, came the 
long, the interminable state of nonarrest, of exhausting housebound lethargy, which ground down the 
will power of the victim even more effectively than the direct pressure of the Lubyanka. (Nor would 
the Lubyanka run away either — it, too, would last for a year. ) 

On one occasion, Bukharin was summoned by Kaganovich, who arranged a confrontation between 
him and Sokolnikov in the presence of high-ranking Chekists. Sokolnikov gave testimony about "the 
parallel Rightist Center" (parallel, in other words, to that of the Trotskyites), and about Bukharin's 
underground activity. Kaganovich conducted the interrogation aggressively and then ordered 
Sokolnikov to be taken away. And he said to Bukharin in a friendly tone: "He lies in his teeth, the 
whore!" 

Despite that, the newspapers continued to report the indigna- tion of the masses. Bukharin 
telephoned the Central Committee. Bukharin wrote letters beginning "Dear Koba," in which he 
begged that the accusations against him be publicly denied. And then the prosecutor's office 
published a roundabout declaration: "Objective proofs for the indictment of Bukharin have not been 
found." 

Radek telephoned him in the fall, wanting to see him. Bukharin shunned him: We are both being 
accused; why add another cloud? But their Izvestiya country houses were next to each other, and 
Radek dropped in on him one evening: "No matter what I may say later on, please know that I am 
not to blame for anything. And anyway you will come out of it whole: you were not con- nected with 
the Trotskyites." 

And Bukharin believed he would come out of it whole and that he would not be expelled from the 

Party. For that would be monstrous! In actuality, he had always been hostile to the Trotskyites: they 
had put themselves outside the Party and look what had come of it! They had to stick together. Even 
if they made mistakes, they had to stick together on that too. 

At the November demonstration (his farewell to Red Square), he and his wife went to the reviewing 
stand for guests on his newspaper editor's press card. All at once an armed soldier came up to him. 
His heart stopped! They were going to do it here? At a time like this? No. The soldier saluted: 
"Comrade Stalin is sur- prised at your being here. He asks you to take your place on the 
mausoleum." 

And that's the way they tossed him back and forth from hot to cold for the entire half-year. On 
December 5 they adopted the Bukharin constitution with fanfare and celebration and named it the 
Stalinist Constitution for all eternity. At the December Plenum of the Central Committee, they 
brought in Pyatakov, with his teeth knocked out, and not a bit like himself. Behind his back stood 



silent Chekists (Yagoda men, and Yagoda, after all, was also being tested and prepared for a role). 
Pyatakov delivered himself of the most repulsive sort of testimony against Bukharin and Rykov, 
both of whom were sitting right there among the leaders. Ordzhonikidze put his hand up to his ear 
(he was hard of hearing): "See here, are you giving all this testimony voluntarily?" (Note that down! 
Ordzhonikidze will get a bullet of his own!) "Absolutely voluntarily" — and Pyatakov swayed on his 
feet. And during the recess, Rykov said to Bu- kharin: "Tomsky had will power. He understood it all 
back in August, and he ended his own life. While you and I, like fools, have gone on living." 

At this point Kaganovich made an angry, condemnatory speech (he wanted so much to believe in 
Bukharchik's innocence, but he couldn't any longer). And then Molotov. And then Stalin! What a 
generous heart! What a memory for the good things! "Nonetheless, I consider that Bukharin's guilt 
has not yet been proven. Perhaps Rykov is guilty, but not Bukharin." (Someone had drawn up 
charges against Bukharin against his will! ) 

From cold to hot. That's how will power collapses. That's how to grow used to the role of a ruined 
hero. 

And then they began to bring to his home day after day the records of interrogations: the depositions 
of young ex-students in the Institute of Red Professors, of Radek, and all the rest of them. And they 
all provided the gravest proofs of Bukharin's black treason. They took these documents to his home, 
not as if he were a defendant — oh, by no means! Merely in his position as a member of the Central 
Committee — merely for his informa- tion. 

Usually, when he received a new batch of these materials, Bu- kharin would say to his twenty-two- 
year-old wife, who only that spring had given him a son: "You read them. I can't." And he would 
bury his head in his pillow. He had two revolvers at home. (Stalin was giving him time too.) And yet 
he did not commit suicide. 

Is it not clear that he had grown used to his ordained role? 

And one more public trial took place. And they shot one more batch of defendants. And yet they 
continued to be merciful to Bukharin. They had not taken Bukharin. 

At the beginning of February, 1937, he decided to go on a hunger strike at home, in order to force 
the Central Committee to hold a hearing and clear him of the charges against him. He announced it 
in a letter to "Dear Koba," and he honestly went through with it too. Then a Plenum of the Central 
Committee was convened with the following agenda: (1) the crimes of the Rightist Center, (2) the 
anti-Party conduct of Comrade Bu- kharin, as evidenced by his hunger strike. 

Bukharin hesitated. Had he perhaps really insulted the Party in some particular way? Unshaven, thin, 
wan, already a prisoner in appearance, he dragged himself along to the Plenum. "What on earth were 
you thinking of?" Dear Koba asked him cordially. "But what was I to do in the face of such 
accusations? They want to expel me from the Party." Stalin made a wry face at the absurdity: "Come 
on, now. No one is going to expel you from the Party!" 

Bukharin believed him and revived. He willingly assured the Plenum of his repentance, and 
immediately abandoned his hunger strike. (At home he said: "Come on now, cut me some sausage! 
Koba said they wouldn't expel me.") But in the course of the Plenum, Kaganovich and Molotov 
(impudent fellows they were, indeed! — paid no attention to Stalin's opinion!) both called Bukharin a 
Fascist hireling and demanded that he be shot. 

[See what a wealth of information we are deprived of because we're protecting Molotov's noble old 
age.] 



And once again Bukharin's spirits fell, and in his last days he began to compose his "Letter to the 
Future Central Committee." Committed to memory and thereby preserved, it recently became known 
to the whole world. However, it did not shake the world to its foundations. 

[Nor did it shake the "Future Central Committee" either.] 

For what were the last words this brilliant theoretician decided to hand down to future generations? 
Just one more cry of anguish and a plea to be restored to the Party. (He paid dearly in shame for that 
devotion!) And one more affirmation that he "fully approved" everything that had hap- pened up to 
and including 1937. And that included not only all the previous jeeringly mocking trials, but also all 
the foul-smelling waves of our great prison sewage disposal system. 

And that is how he himself certified that he, too, deserved to plunge into those waves. 

So, at long last, he had matured to the point of being turned over to the prompters and the assistant 
producers — this muscular man, this hunter and wrestler! (In playful tussles in the presence of the 
Central Committee, how many times had he landed Stalin flat on his back! And this, too, was 
probably something Koba couldn't forgive him.) 

And in the case of one so fully prepared, so demolished, that no torture was called for, how was his 
position any stronger than that of Yakubovich in 1931? How could he not be susceptible to the same 
two arguments? He was in fact much weaker, because Yakubovich longed for death, and Bukharin 
dreaded it. 

There remained an easy dialogue with Vyshinsky along set Unes: 

"Is it true that every opposition to the Party is a struggle against the Party?" "In general it is, factually 
it is." "But a struggle against the Party cannot help but grow into a war against the Party." 
"According to the logic of things — yes, it must." "And that means that in the end, given the existence 
of oppositionist beliefs, any foul deeds whatever might be perpetrated against the Party [es- pionage, 
murder, sellout of the Motherland]?" "But wait a minute, none were actually committed." "But they 
could have been?" "Well, theoretically speaking." (Those are your theoreticians for you!) "But for us 
the highest of all interests are those of the Party?" "Yes, of course, of course!" "So you see, only a 
very fine distinction separates us. We are required to concretize the eventu- ality: in the interest of 
discrediting for the future any idea of opposition, we are required to accept as having taken place 
what could only theoretically have taken place. After all, it could have, couldn't it?" "It could have." 
"And so it is necessary to recognize as actual what was possible; that's all. It's a small phi- losophical 
transition. Are we in agreement? . . . Yes, and one thing more, and it's not for me to explain to you, 
but if you re- treat and say something different during the trial, you understand that it will only play 
into the hands of the world bourgeoisie and will only do the Party harm. Well, and it's clear that in 
that case you yourself will not die an easy death. But if everything goes off all right, we will, of 
course, allow you to go on living. We'll send you in secret to the island of Monte Cristo, and you can 
work on the economics of socialism there." "But in previous trials, as I understand it, you did shoot 
them all?" "But what comparison is there between you and them! And then, we also left many of 
them alive too. They were shot only in the newspapers." 

And so perhaps there isn't any insoluble riddle? 

It was all that same invincible theme song, persisting with only minor variations through so many 
different trials: "After all, we and you are Communists! How could you have gotten off the track and 
come out against us? Repent! After all, you and we together — is us!" 

Historical comprehension ripens slowly in a society. And when it does ripen, it is so simple. Neither 
in 1922, nor in 1924, nor in 1937 were the defendants able to hang onto their own point of view so 



firmly that they could raise their heads and shout, in reply to that bewitching and anesthetizing 
melody: 

"No, we are not revolutionaries with you! No, we are not Rus- sians with you! No, we are not 
Communists with you!" 

It would seem that if only that kind of shout had been raised, all the stage sets would have collapsed, 
the plaster masks would have fallen off, the Producer would have fled down the backstairs, and the 
prompters would have sneaked off into their ratholes. And out of doors it would have been, say, 
1967! 

But even the most superbly successful of these theatrical pro- ductions was expensive and 
troublesome. And Stalin decided not to use open trials any longer. 

Or rather in 1937 he probably did have a plan for holding public trials on a wide scale in the local 
districts — so the black soul of the opposition would be made visible to the masses. But he couldn't 
find producers who were good enough. It wasn't practical to prepare things so carefully, and the 
mental processes of the accused weren't so complex, and Stalin only got into a mess, although very 
few people know about it. The whole plan broke down after a few trials, and was abandoned. 

It's appropriate here to describe one such trial — the Kady case, detailed reports of which the Ivanovo 
provincial newspapers published initially. 

At the end of 1934, a new local administrative district was created in the remote wilds of Ivanovo 
Province at the point where it joined Kostroma and Nizhni Novgorod Provinces, and its center was 
situated in the ancient, slow-moving village of Kady. New leaders were sent there from various 
localities, and they made one another's acquaintance right in Kady. There they found a remote, sad, 
impoverished region, badly in need of money, machines, and intelligent economic management, but, 
instead, starved by grain procurements. It happened that Fyodor Ivanovich Smirnov, the First 
Secretary of the District Party Committee, was a man with a strong sense of justice; Stavrov, the 
head of the District Agricultural Department, was a peasant through and through, one of those 
peasants known as the intensivniki — in other words, the hard-working, zealous, and literate peasants 
who in the twenties had run their farms on a scientific basis, for which they were at that time 
rewarded by the Soviet government, since it had not yet been decided that all these intensivniki must 
be de- stroyed. Because Stavrov had entered the Party he had survived the liquidation of the kulaks. 
(And maybe he even took part in the liquidation of the kulaks?) These men tried to do something for 
the peasants in their new district, but directives kept pouring down from above and each one ran 
counter to some initiative of theirs; it was as if, up there, they were busy thinking up what they could 
do to make things worse and more desperate for the peasants. And at one point the leaders in Kady 
wrote the province leadership that it was necessary to lower the plan for procurement of breadgrains 
because the district couldn't fulfill the plan without becoming impoverished well below the danger 
point. One has to recall the situation in the thirties (and maybe not only the thirties?) to realize what 
sacrilege against the plan and what rebellion against the government this represented! But, in ac- 
cordance with then current style, measures were not taken directly from above, but were left to local 
initiative. 

When Smirnov was on vacation, his deputy, Vasily Fyodorovich Romanov, the Sec- ond Secretary, 
arranged to have a resolution passed by the District Party Committee: "The successes of the district 
would have been even more brilliant [?] if it were not for the Trotskyite Stavrov." This set in motion 
the "individual case" of Stavrov. (An interest- ing approach: Divide and rule! For the time being, 
Smirnov was merely to be frightened, neutralized, and compelled to retreat; there would be time 
enough later on to get to him. And this, on a small scale, was precisely the Stalinist tactic in the 
Central Com- mittee.) At stormy Party meetings, however, it became clear that Stavrov was about as 
much of a Trotskyite as he was a Jesuit. The head of the District Consumer Cooperatives, Vasily 



Grigoryevich Vlasov, a man with a ragtag, haphazard education but one of those native talents others 
are so surprised to find among Russians, a bom retail trade executive, eloquent, adroit in an 
argument, who could get fired to red heat about anything he believed to be right, tried to persuade 
the Party meeting to expel Romanov from the Party for slander. And they actually did give Romanov 
an official Party rebuke! Romanov's last words in this dispute were typical of this kind of person, 
demonstrating his assurance in regard to the general situation: "Even though they proved Stavrov 
was not a Trotskyite, nonetheless I am sure he is a Trotskyite. The Party will investigate, and it will 
also investigate the rebuke to me." And the Party did investigate: the District NKVD arrested 
Stavrov almost immediately, and one month later they also arrested Univer, the Chairman of the 
District Executive Com- mittee and an Estonian. And Romanov took over Univer's job as Chairman 
of the District Executive Committee. Stavrov was taken to the Provincial NKVD, where he 
confessed he was a Trotskyite, that he had acted in coalition with the SR's all his life, that he was a 
member of an underground rightist organization in his district (this is a bouquet worthy of the times, 
the only thing missing being a connection with the Entente). Perhaps he never really did confess 
these things, but no one is ever going to know, since he died from torture during interrogation in the 
internal prison of the Ivanovo NKVD. The pages of his deposition were there in full. Soon afterward, 
they arrested Smirnov, the secretary of the District Party Committee, as the head of the supposed 
rightist organization; and Saburov, the head of the District Fi- nancial Department, and someone else 
as well. 

Of interest is the way in which Vlasov's fate was decided. He had only recently demanded the 
expulsion from the Party of Romanov, now the new Chairman of the District Executive Com- mittee. 
He had also fatally offended Rusov, the district prosecutor, as we have already reported in Chapter 4, 
above. He had offended N. I. Krylov, the Chairman of the District NKVD, by protecting two of his 
energetic and resourceful executives from being ar- rested for supposed wrecking — both of them had 
black marks on their records because of their social origins. (Vlasov always hired all kinds of 
"former" people for his work — because they mastered the business effectively and, in addition, tried 
hard; people pro- moted from the ranks of the proletariat knew nothing and, more importantly, didn't 
want to know anything.) Nonetheless the NKVD was prepared to make its peace with the trade 
cooperative! Sorokin, the Deputy Chairman of the District NKVD, came in person to see Vlasov 
with a peace proposal: to give the NKVD 700 rubles' worth of materials without charging them for it 
(and later on we will somehow write it off). (The ragpickers! And that was two months' wages for 
Vlasov, who had never taken anything illegally for himself. ) "And if you don't give it to us, you are 
going to regret it." Vlasov kicked him out: "How do you dare offer me, a Communist, a deal like 
that?" The very next day Krylov paid a call on the District Consumer Cooperative, this time as the 
rep- resentative of the District Committee of the Party. (This mas- querade, like all these tricks, was 
in the spirit of 1937.) And this time he ordered the convening of a Party meeting; the agenda: "On 
the wrecking activities of Smirnov and Univer in the Con- sumers' Cooperatives," the report to be 
delivered by Comrade Vlasov. Well, now, that's a gem of a trick for you! No one at that point was 
making charges against Vlasov. But it would be quite enough for him to say two little words about 
the wrecking ac- tivities of the former secretary of the District Party Committee in his, Vlasov's, 
field, and the NKVD would interrupt: "And where were you? Why didn't you come to us in time?" 
In a situa- tion of this sort many others would have lost their heads and allowed themselves to be 
trapped. But not Vlasov! He immedi- ately replied: "I won't make the report! Let Krylov make the 
report — after all, he arrested Smirnov and Univer and is handling their case." Krylov refused: "I'm 
not familiar with the evidence." Vlasov replied: "If even you aren't familiar with the evidence, that 
means they were arrested without cause." So the Party meeting simply didn't take place. But how 
often did people dare to defend themselves? (We will not have a complete picture of the atmosphere 
of 1937 if we lose sight of the fact that there were still strong-willed people capable of difficult 
decisions, and if we fail to recall that late that night T., the senior bookkeeper of the District 
Consumer Cooperative, and his deputy N. came to Vlasov's office with 10,000 rubles: "Vasily 
Grigoryevich! Get out of town tonight! Don't wait for tomorrow. Otherwise you are finished!" But 
Vlasov thought it did not befit a Communist to run away. ) The next morning there was a nasty 
article in the district paper on the work of the District Consumer Cooperative. (One has to point out 
that in 1937 the press always played hand in glove with the NKVD.) By evening Vlasov had been 



asked to give the District Party Committee an accounting of his own work. (Every step of the way, 
this was how things were in the entire Soviet Union. ) 

This was 1937, the second year of the so-called "Mikoyan prosperity" in Moscow and other big 
cities. And even today, in the reminiscences of journalists and writers, one gets the impres- sion that 
at the time there was already plenty of everything. This concept seems to have gone down in history, 
and there is a danger of its staying there. And yet, in November, 1936, two years after the abolition 
of bread rationing, a secret directive was published in Ivanovo Province (and in other provinces) 
prohibiting the sale of flour. In those years many housewives in small towns, and particularly in 
villages, still used to bake their own bread. Pro- hibiting the sale of flour meant: Do not eat bread! In 
the district center of Kady, long bread lines formed such as had never before been seen. (However, 
they attacked that problem, too, by for- bidding the baking of black bread in district centers, 
permitting only expensive white bread to be baked.) The only bakery in the whole Kady District was 
the one in the district center, and people began to pour into the center from the villages to get black 
bread. The warehouses of the District Consumer Cooperative had flour, but the two parallel 
prohibitions blocked off all avenues by which it could be made available to the public! Vlasov, 
however, man- aged to find a way out of the impasse, and despite the clever gov- emment rulings he 
kept the district fed for a whole year: he went out to the collective farms and got eight of them to 
agree to set up public bakeries in empty "kulak" huts (in other words, they would simply bring in 
firewood and set the women to baking in ordinary Russian peasant ovens, but, mind you, ovens 
which were now socialized, publicly not privately owned). The District Con- sumer Cooperative 
would undertake to supply them with flour. There is eternal simplicity to a solution once it has been 
dis- covered! Without building any bakeries (for which he had no funds), Vlasov set them up in one 
day. Without carrying on a trade in flour, he released flour from the warehouse continuously and 
proceeded to order more from the provincial center. Without selling black bread in the district center, 
he gave the district black bread. Yes, he did not violate the letter of the instructions, but he violated 
their spirit — for their essence was to compel a reduc- tion in flour consumption by starving the 
people. And so, of course, there were good grounds for criticizing him at the Dis- trict Party 
Committee. 

After that criticism he remained free overnight and was ar- rested the next morning. He was a tough 
little bantam rooster. He was short, and he always carried his head slightly thrown back, with a touch 
of aggressiveness. He tried to avoid surrendering his Party membership card, because no decision 
expelling him from the Party had been reached at the District Party Committee the night before. He 
also refused to give up his identification card as a deputy of the district soviet, since he had been 
elected by the people, and the District Executive Committee had not taken any decision depriving 
him of his deputy's immunity. But the police did not appreciate such formalities and overpowered 
him, and took them away by main force. They took him from the District Consumer Cooperative 
down the main street of Kady in broad daylight, and his young merchandise manager, a Komsomol 
mem- ber, saw him from the window of the District Party Committee headquarters. At that time not 
everyone, especially in the villages, because of their naivete, had learned to keep quiet about what 
they thought. The merchandise manager shouted: "Look at those bastards! Now they've taken away 
my boss too!" Right then and there, without leaving the room, they expelled him from both the 
District Party Committee and from the Komsomol, and he slid down the well-known pathway into 
the bottomless pit. 

Vlasov was arrested very late in comparison with the others who were charged in the same case. The 
case had been nearly completed without him, and it was in process of being set up as an open trial. 
They took him to the Ivanovo NKVD Internal Prison, but, since he was the last to be involved, he 
was not sub- jected to any heavy pressure. He was interrogated twice. There was no supporting 
testimony from witnesses. And the file of his interrogation was filled with summary reports of the 
District Con- sumer Cooperative and clips from the district newspaper. Vlasov was charged with: (1) 
initiating bread lines; (2) having an in- adequate minimum assortment of merchandise (just as though 
the unavailable merchandise existed somewhere else and someone had offered it to Kady) ; (3) 



procuring a surplus of salt (but this was the obligatory "mobilization" reserve: ever since ancient 
times people in Russia have been afraid of being without salt in the event of war). 

At the end of September, the defendants were brought to Kady for public trial. It was not a short trip. 
(Remember how cheap the OSO's and the closed courts were!) From Ivanovo to Ki- neshma they 
went in a Stolypin railway car; then seventy miles from Kineshma to Kady in automobiles. There 
were more than ten cars, an unusual file along an old, deserted road, and one that aroused 
astonishment, fear, and the expectation of war in the villages. Klyugin, the Chief of the Special 
Secret Department of the Provincial NKVD for Counter- Revolutionary Organiza- tions, was 
responsible for the faultless organization of the whole trial and for terrifying the public with it. Their 
convoy consisted of forty guards from the reserves of the mounted police, and every day from 
September 24 to 27, with swords unsheathed and Naguan revolvers at the ready, they took the 
prisoners from the District NKVD to the still unfinished club building and back, through the village 
where they had until recently been the gov- ernment. Windows had already been installed in the 
club, but the stage had not yet been finished. There was no electricity. There was no electricity in 
Kady at all. After nightfall the court met by the light of kerosene lamps. The spectators were brought 
in from the collective farms in rotation. And all Kady crowded in as well. Not only did they sit on 
window sills and benches, but they stood packed in the aisles, seven hundred of them at a time. 
(Russians have always loved spectacles.) The forward benches were regularly reserved for 
Communists to provide the court with dependable support. 

A Special Assize of the provincial court had been constituted, consisting of Deputy Chairman of the 
Provincial Court Shubin, who presided, and members Biche and Zaozerov. The provincial 
prosecutor Karasik, a graduate of Dorpat University, was in charge of the prosecution. And even 
though all the accused de- clined defense lawyers, a government lawyer was forced on them so that 
the case wouldn't be left without a prosecutor. The formal indictment, solemn, menacing, and 
lengthy, came down in essence to the charge that an underground Rightist Bukharinite group had 
existed in Kady District, which had been formed in Ivanovo (in other words, you could expect arrests 
in Ivanovo too), and had as its purpose the overthrow by wrecking of the Soviet gov- ernment in the 
village of Kady (and this was about the remotest boondock in all Russia the rightists could have 
found for a starting point! ). 

The prosecutor petitioned the court to have Stavrov's testi- mony, given before his death in prison, 
read to the court and accepted as evidence. In fact, the whole charge against the group was based on 
Stavrov's evidence. The court agreed to include the testimony of the deceased, just as if he were 
alive. (With the advantage, however, that none of the defendants could refute it.) 

But darkest Kady did not appreciate these scholarly fine points. It waited to see what came next. The 
testimony of Stavrov, who had been killed under interrogation, was read to the court and once again 
became part of the record. The questioning of the defendants began — and immediately there was 
chaos. All of them repudiated the testimony they had given during the interrogation. 

It is not clear how, in such an event, things would have been arranged in the October Hall of the 
House of the Unions in Mos- cow — but here, at any rate, it was decided shamelessly to continue. The 
judge rebuked the defendants: How could you have given different testimony during the 
interrogation? Univer, very weak, replied in a barely audible voice: "As a Communist I cannot, in a 
public trial, describe the interrogation methods of the NKVD." (Now there was a model for the 
Bukharin trial! Now that's what keeps them together! More than anything else, . they are worried that 
people might think ill of the Party. Their judges had long since stopped worrying about that.) 

During the recess, Klyugin visited the cells of the defendants. He said to Vlasov: "You've heard how 
Smimov and Univer played the whore, the bastards? You've got to admit your guilt and tell the 
whole truth!" "The truth and nothing but the truth," willingly agreed Vlasov, who had not yet 
weakened. "The truth and nothing but the truth that you are every bit as bad as the German Fascists!" 



Klyugin flew into a rage: "Listen here, you whore, you'll pay with your blood!" 

[Your own blood, too, is going to flow soon, Klyugin! Caught in the Yezhov gang of gaybisty, 
Klyugin will have his throat cut by the stool pigeon Gubaidulin.] 

From that moment Vlasov was pushed forward from a back seat among the defendants to a leading 
role in the trial — as the ideological leader of the group. 

The crowd jamming the aisles grew interested whenever the court fearlessly broke into questions 
about bread lines — about things that touched everyone present to the quick. (And, of course, bread 
had been put on unrestricted sale just before the trial, and there were no bread lines that day.) A 
question to the accused Smimov: "Did you know about the bread lines in the district?" "Yes, of 
course. They stretched from the store itself right up to the building of the District Party Committee." 
"And what did you do about them?" Notwithstanding the tortures he had endured, Smirnov had 
preserved his resounding voice and tranquil righteousness. This broad-shouldered man with a simple 
face and light-brown hair answered slowly, and the whole hall heard every word he said: "Since all 
appeals to organizations in the provincial capital had failed, I instructed Vlasov to write a report to 
Comrade Stalin." "And why didn't you write it?" (They hadn't yet known about it! They had certainly 
missed that one!) "We did write it, and I sent it by courier directly to the Central Committee, 
bypassing the provincial leaders. A copy was kept in the District Committee files." 

The whole courtroom held its breath. The court itself was in a commotion. They shouldn't have 
continued questioning, but nonetheless someone asked: "And what happened?" 

And, indeed, that question was on the lips of everyone in the courtroom: "What happened?" 

Smimov did not sob, did not groan over the death of his ideal (and that's what was missing in the 
Moscow trials!). He replied loudly and calmly: 

"Nothing. There was no answer. " 

And his tired voice seemed to say: Well, that, in fact, was just what I expected. 

There was no answer. From the Father and Teacher there was no answer! The public trial had 
already reached its zenith! It had already shown the masses the black heart of the Cannibal! And the 
trial could have been called off right then and there. But, oh no, they didn't have sense enough for 
that, or tact enough for that, and they kept rubbing away at the befouled spot for three more days. 

The prosecutor raised a hue and cry: Double-dealing! That's what it was. They engaged in wrecking 
with one hand and with the other they dared write Comrade Stalin. And they even ex- pected a reply 
from him. Let the defendant Vlasov tell us how he pulled off such a nightmarish piece of wrecking 
that he stopped the sale of flour and the baking of rye bread in the district center. 

Vlasov, the bantam rooster, didn't have to be asked to rise — he had already jumped up, and he 
shouted resoundingly through the hall: 

"I agree to give a full answer to the court, but on condition that you, the prosecutor, Karasik, leave 
the accuser's rostrum and sit down here next to me!" It was incomprehensible. Noise, shout- ing. C